CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Seventeen Texas prison guards have been charged with smuggling cellphones into prison that allowed inmates to organize murders and sell drugs, officials say.
The guards were among 32 people whose indictments in the cellphone operation were announced Wednesday by federal officials, the Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times reported.
All of those indicted were either corrections officers and inmates or former employees and inmates at McConnell State Prison in Beeville.
Kenneth Magidson, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas, released the indictments.
The indictments charge that corrections officers at the facility accepted bribes of between $500 and $1,400 to provide drugs and cellphones to leaders of the Raza Unida and Aryan Brotherhood imprisoned there who were working together "inside and outside of prison," said Tom Roddy, group supervisor with Homeland Security Investigations.
The investigation at the prison began in 2009 when a Corpus Christi police officer pulled over a vehicle during a routine traffic stop. Members of the Aryan Circle gang occupied the vehicle, which was stolen, officials said.
Police in Brownsville later found other stolen vehicles with weapons inside and arrested other members of the Aryan Circle.
The arrests led investigators to McConnell State Prison, where they found leaders of the Raza Unida and Aryan Brotherhood gangs were orchestrating the thefts, as well as organizing murders, home invasions and shootings.