Bryant LeRay Henderson, 42, of Smithville, Texas, allegedly flew a drone loaded with drugs and other contraband into prison, and has been federally charged, according to Chad E. Meacham, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas.
Henderson was arrested at his residence on Thursday, charged via criminal complaint with one count of attempting to provide contraband in prison, one count of serving as an airman without an airman’s certificate, and one count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
He is scheduled to make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey L. Cureton at 11 a.m. today.
“Contraband drone deliveries are quickly becoming the bane of prison officials’ existence. Illicit goods pose a threat to guards and inmates alike – and when it comes to cell phones, the threat often extends outside prison walls,” explained U.S. Attorney Meacham.
“We are determined to stop this trend in its tracks.”
“The criminal element will always take advantage of new opportunities for illegal activity as technology progresses,” added FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno.
“In this instance, excellent collaborative investigation among federal and local agencies led to multiple federal charges and prevented contraband from entering the federal prison system.”
According to court documents, Henderson allegedly flew a DJI Inspire drone into the airspace over FMC Fort Worth, a federal correctional in the south part of the city, just before midnight on Wednesday, May 4.
The drone crashed inside a secure, fenced-in yard near the prison’s HVAC shop, where staff recovered it. Affixed to the drone was a package containing 46 grams of crystal methamphetamine, 87 grams of pressed THC, two prepaid smartphones, and nine mp3 players.
Law enforcement pulled surveillance video from a nearby high school and observed a young male drive up in a red Chevy Tahoe with a Transformers decal on the rear window, remove a drone and a package from the vehicle, launch the drone towards the prison, and then drive off.
In a review of other surveillance footage, law enforcement identified a red Tahoe with an identical Transformers decal and was also able to pull a license plate number.
(Learn More. Officials say he planned on dropping bags full of tobacco, cell phones, cell phone chargers, tools, and vape pens to be sold within the prison. Courtesy of 12NewsNow and YouTube. Posted on Jul 12, 2022.)
Two and a half weeks later, officers found the Tahoe abandoned in a travel lane, flashers on and hood up. It was impounded and later searched.
Inside the vehicle, law enforcement found Henderson’s debit card, a DJI drone controller, various drone accessories (rechargeable batteries, a propeller box, and dropping mechanisms), 18 smartphones, tobacco products, and vacuum-packed containers with steroid labels connected to a fishing line and a key ring.
They later powered on the controller recovered from the car next to the drone recovered from the prison yard.
The devices were immediately paired, and from the drone, investigators recovered 70 usable flight logs, which included date/time stamps as well as speed, height, and location data.
They identified four flights that intruded into FMC Fort Worth’s airspace, and another two that intruded into airspace over FCI Seagoville, another federal correctional center southeast of Dallas.
Law enforcement then queried Henderson’s records and found that the phone was near FMC Fort Worth around the time of the drone cash, and near FCI Seagoville near the time of the drone’s flight into the prison’s airspace.
The Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General queried the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), who reported back that Henderson did not possess an airman’s certification, and that the drone in question was registered to another owner who canceled his registration in August 2018.
FAA records confirmed that the federal correctional institutions were restricted flight areas.
Drone delivery of contraband is an increasingly vexing problem for the Federal Bureau of Prisons and state corrections officials.
Just last month, a 44-year-old Houston man was charged in the Eastern District of Texas for allegedly operating a drone over FCI Beaumont in east Texas. Additionally, in April, a 30-year-old former inmate pleaded guilty to conspiring to smuggle phones and tobacco into FCI Fort Dix in New Jersey.
And last fall, three Atlanta men were sentenced to a year each in federal prison for using drones to smuggle contraband into Telfair State Prison in Georgia.
(Investigators say security video shows drugs and a phone dropped from a drone into a Cuyahoga County jail complex. Courtesy of FOX 8 News Cleveland and YouTube. Posted on Sep 25, 2019.)
Like all defendants, Henderson is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
If convicted, he faces up to 45 years total in prison: 20 years for attempting to provide contraband in prison, 5 years for serving as an airman without an airman’s certificate, and 20 years for possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Dallas Field Office – Fort Worth Resident Agency, the Bureau of Prisons Special Investigative Staff, and the Fort Worth Police Department, with the assistance of the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Dallas Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Levi Thomas is prosecuting the case.
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(Actress Kirsten Vangsness, who plays tech-savvy FBI analyst Penelope Garcia on the show Criminal Minds, is promoteing the awareness of Internet crimes and scams and encourages the public to report suspected criminal cyber activity to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Courtesy of the FBI and YouTube.)
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American Security Today’s Annual ‘ASTORS’ Awards is the preeminent U.S. Homeland Security Awards Program, and now in its Seventh Year, continues to recognize industry leaders of Physical and Border Security, Cybersecurity, Emergency Preparedness – Management and Response, Law Enforcement, First Responders, as well as federal, state and municipal government agencies in the acknowledgment of their outstanding efforts to Keep our Nation Secure.
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