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VALDOSTA, Ga.A former Valdosta State Prison corrections officer was sentenced to federal prison today after being caught smuggling contraband cell phones and methamphetamine into the prison, said Charlie Peeler, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.

Melissa Crawford, 53, of Macon, Georgia, was sentenced to serve 46 months in prison to be followed by four years of supervised release by U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands after previously pleading guilty to one count of distribution of methamphetamine. There is no parole in the federal system.

On January 8, 2019, Georgia Department of Corrections (DOC) investigators received information that Crawford, a corrections officer at Valdosta State Prison, would be smuggling contraband into the prison the following day. On January 9, Crawford and another corrections officer chosen at random were informed that their vehicles were to be searched. Crawford attempted to leave the premises in her car, nearly hitting another officer, but was stopped. Crawford admitted she attempted to leave because there were narcotics in her car. A search of the car revealed 27.53 grams of methamphetamine, a quantity of marijuana and four cell phones packaged in Ziplock bags. Crawford admitted to DEA agents that she smuggled in contraband on at least four prior occasions and was paid via Green Dot cards for her deliveries of contraband to an inmate.

“Smuggling contraband cell phones and drugs into prisons endangers prisoners, prison staff and the public. The fact that the contraband in this case was being smuggled in by a corrections officer, whose duty it was to protect our citizens, makes this crime even more egregious, and does a disservice to all the honorable women and men who work in the prison system,” said U.S. Attorney Charlie Peeler. “We will prosecute those caught smuggling contraband into prison to the fullest extent of the law, and, those caught with contraband in prison will also face serious punishment. I want to thank the DEA and Georgia’s Department of Corrections for their work investigating this case.”

“The public places trust in law enforcement officers and expects them to protect and serve,” said the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division Robert J. Murphy. “When an officer violates this oath, that public trust is eroded. The defendant in this case does not reflect the honest and hardworking men and women in law enforcement who put their lives on the line daily to protect and serve. This case is a reminder that no officer is above the law, and the officer in this case will spend well-deserved time in prison. This case is a shining example of what can be achieved when DEA works hand-in-hand with its law enforcement partners.”

“The GDC maintains a zero-tolerance policy for individuals who choose to ignore their oath and jeopardize our non-negotiable mission of public safety. We appreciate the support of our federal partners in our efforts to see that justice is served on this former officer,” said GDC Commissioner Timothy C. Ward. “The actions of this individual do not reflect the hundreds of officers who are committed each and every day to ensuring the safety of the public and the safe operations of our facilities.”

The case was investigated by the Georgia Department of Corrections and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert McCullers prosecuted the case for the Government. Questions can be directed to Pamela Lightsey, Public Information Officer, United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 621-2603 or Melissa Hodges, Public Affairs Director (Contractor), United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 765-2362.

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