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Texas man admits flying drone loaded with drugs, MP3 players and phones into federal prison

Bryant LeRay Henderson faces up to 20 years in federal prison for his high-tech efforts to provide contraband to a prisoner.

DALLAS (CN) — A Texas man admitted Wednesday to flying a drone loaded with drugs, MP3 players and phones into a Fort Worth prison.

Authorities charged Bryant LeRay Henderson, 42, of Smithville, in August with one count of attempting to provide contraband to a prisoner, one count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance and one count of operating a drone without a license. He pleaded guilty to the first count before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cureton and faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

Employees at Federal Medical Center Fort Worth said they saw a drone flying over the prison shortly before midnight on May 3. They saw a package hanging from the bottom before the craft crashed near an HVAC construction shop inside a fenced in area. They found tobacco, 46 grams of methamphetamine, 87 grams of marijuana, two prepaid smartphones and nine MP3 players.

Federal agents said they viewed surveillance video from nearby OD Wyatt High School that showed Henderson driving up in a red Chevy Tahoe with a unique Transformer decal and launching the drone with the package toward the prison.

“Shortly thereafter, they recovered the Chevy, where they found a DJI drone controller, various drone accessories (rechargeable batteries, a propeller box, and dropping mechanisms), and 18 smartphones,” prosecutors said in a written statement Thursday evening. “They powered on the controller recovered from the car next to the drone recovered from the prison yard. The devices immediately paired.”

Prosecutors said the drone’s flight logs show four total flights entering the prison’s airspace and two intrusions into FCI Seagoville, a separate prison southeast of Dallas. Henderson’s cellphone records show the phone being near both prisons during the drone’s flights into each.

Chad Meacham, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said these kinds of drone prison deliveries are “becoming the bane of prison officials’ existence.”

“Illicit goods pose a threat to guards and inmates alike — and when it comes to cellphones, the threat often extends outside prison walls,” Meacham said Thursday. “We are determined to stop this trend in its tracks.”

Henderson’s plea comes one month after Davien Phillip Turner, 44, of Houston, was charged with trying to fly a drone into FCI Beaumont in southeast Texas.

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