CLEVELAND, OH — A former Cuyahoga County corrections officer and the inmate charged with paying her off to smuggle drugs into the troubled county jail pleaded guilty Thursday to their roles in what prosecutors say was a two-year smuggling operation behind bars.
Marvella Sullivan, who resigned from the jail in 2019, pleaded guilty to felony marijuana trafficking and attempted bribery after prosecutors say she accepted $160 and a purse from an inmate's sister in exchange for providing the inmate with marijuana behind bars.
That inmate, 33-year-old Lamar Speights, pleaded guilty Thursday to felony bribery, money laundering, and illegal conveyance of drugs into a government facility.
Both cut deals with prosecutors and agreed to testify in other cases involving crimes in the jail.
Sullivan faces a maximum of 30 months in prison. Speights, who's currently serving a 16-year prison sentence for aggravated burglary and other charges, could have another six years in prison added to his sentence.
Another former jailer, Stephen Thomas, pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from what investigators call a smuggling operation in the jail.
Thomas, who resigned following his arrest in 2019, was a member of the jail's Special Response Team, or "Men in Black." Thomas is accused of accepting thousands of dollars from inmates in exchange for providing them with heroin, vape pens, cell phones, and fentanyl behind bars.
Prosecutors said that Thomas supplied the drugs that led to one inmate's overdose in 2019.
Former inmate, Alexander Foster also pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors said Foster, who is currently on probation following his conviction on unrelated drug charges, paid Thomas to smuggle in a cell phone, cell phone batteries, and a vape pen in April 2019.
Investigators said Thomas also warned Foster that investigators planned to search his cell. Prosecutors said Foster then flushed the contraband down the toilet in his cell.
According to court records, at least five other unnamed past and current corrections officers were involved in what investigators believe was a two-year smuggling operation in the jail.
Investigators previously linked the smuggling to the Heartless Felons gang.
Smuggling of contraband continues to be a problem in the jail. Last week, Cuyahoga County announced it's launched another investigation into the smuggling of contraband into the jail. The county also confirms a jail corporal has been placed on paid administrative leave during an investigation into allegations connected to contraband behind bars.