8 charged in prison drug-smuggling ring

Updated at 12:30 p.m. with arraignment information

A Chester County Prison correctional officer had been on the job less than half a year when he began illicitly supplementing his income, authorities said, adding that his drug-smuggling scheme was even shorter-lived.

Douglas Keck was terminated from his job as a prison correctional officer after authorities uncovered a drug-smuggling ring at the prison that he made possible

Douglas Keck was terminated from his job as a prison correctional officer after authorities uncovered a drug-smuggling ring at the prison that he allegedly facilitated.

Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced the arrest on Monday, April 7, of Douglas Keck, 45, of Pottstown, the correctional officer; four inmates – Ray Gibase, 36; Richard Nicoletti, 38; Steven Wambold, 24; and Victor Rodriguez, 27 – and three civilians: Vladislav Babayan, 30, of Bristol, a friend of Nicoletti’s; Brittany Pestcoe, 21, of Douglassville, Wambold’s girlfriend; and Ivelise Rodriquez, 34, of Philadelphia, Rodriquez’ fiancée.

Hogan said Keck obtained drugs, such as heroin and prescription drugs, from the civilians and then distributed them to the inmates inside the prison in Pocopson Township, pocketing $100 per delivery. During one of the drug pick-ups outside of the prison, Keck brought his 4-year-old son along, Hogan said.

“As a result of his greed, this correctional officer is going from guarding inmates to being an inmate,” said Hogan. “For a few dollars, he abused his position of trust, lost his job and reputation, and now faces a criminal conviction. We expect members of the criminal justice system to keep drugs away from criminals, not act as an in-prison drug dealer.”

Hogan said the conspiracy was discovered and investigated by Chester County Prison intelligence officers and the Chester County Detectives, who began monitoring phone calls, gathering corroborating evidence, and conducting surveillance of Keck during a two-month probe. According to the criminal complaint, some of the illegal drugs were stolen from a CVS where Pestcoe worked in Douglassville.

County Prison Warden Edward McFadden said Keck, who was hired in September, was terminated immediately. “We will not stand for misconduct at Chester County Prison,” McFadden said, adding that all the defendants will be prosecuted on charges that range from conspiracy to smuggle drugs and other contraband into the prison to other drug-related offenses.

Ray Gibase, a fugitive from a halfway house, faces charges in connection with the prison drug-smuggling operation.

Ray Gibase, a fugitive from a halfway house, faces charges in connection with the prison drug-smuggling operation.

Keck also has been charged with endangering the welfare of his child, court records said.

Hogan said with the exception of Gibase and Keck,  all of the other defendants were in custody. Gibase,  who allegedly befriended Keck to hatch the scheme, is on the lam after leaving a halfway house, Hogan said. His last known address is in Brookhaven.

Keck appeared in Kennett Square's district court late this morning for his preliminary arraignment. Accompanied by his wife, Keck, who repeatedly buried his face in his hands, appeared before Magisterial District Judge Daniel J. Maisano, who set bail at $75,000 unsecured. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for May 26 at 8:30 a.m.

Keck declined to comment. But as he exited the court, where a row of cameras awaited him, he was asked if he regretted his conduct, and he said yes.

The complaint said that the inmates were all housed in H Block, where Keck was assigned to work. After Gibase enlisted Keck as a co-conspirator, Keck obtained the drugs starting in February, initiating a series of five contraband deliveries that ended on March 23. Once the drugs – which included Subutex (a narcotic analgesic), and Xanax – entered the prison, Gibase organized access to them and payments from the other inmates, the complaint said.

“This case is another reminder of the dangers of these powerful narcotic drugs,” said Hogan. “Even in prison, inmates cannot break their addiction. As a result, a correctional officer was corrupted, betraying his co-workers for a little money from convicted criminals.”

Hogan asked that anyone with any further information on the case should contact Chester County Detective Robert Balchunis at 610-344-6866.

 

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