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Texas prison phone smuggling wiidespread

AUSTIN, Texas, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Authorities in Texas say they are close to determining how dozens of cellular phones were smuggled into Texas's death row.

The Austin (Texas) American-Statesman reported Sunday that arrests were expected in the case soon.

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The newspaper reported the cell phone that condemned killer Richard Lee Tabler used to make threatening calls to state Sen. John Whitmire probably was sneaked into the maximum-security Polunsky Unit near Livingston by a fellow inmate who probably then sold it to Tabler and other inmates for favors and cash.

Instead of the phone being smuggled in by a single corrupt guard, as officials originally thought, investigators now say it and dozens of other cell phones may have found their way into the prison through a network of supporters and their families.

"From the time someone puts up the money to get the phone for an inmate, there may be six to eight sets of hands involved with that phone, six to eight different people who do one thing or another," said prison investigator Inspector General John Moriarty. "It's a convoluted, complicated network that's very difficult to trace."

The newspaper said smuggling cellular phones into Texas prisons continues almost unabated four months after Tabler's arrest.

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Since the incident, prison officials have put in an emergency request to Austin for $66 million for security upgrades.

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