Man pleads guilty to accepting bribes while working at Sebastian County Jail

FORT SMITH – A former Sebastian County Detention Center worker admitted on Thursday that he smuggled contraband items into the jail for money.

Joshua Lane Oliver pleaded guilty to one count of bribery of public officials, a felony, at a hearing before Judge PK Holmes III of the U.S. District Court, court records show. Oliver’s conviction was postponed pending the preparation of a pre-sentence report, and a signing bond was set at $ 5,000 with conditions of release.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was informed in March 2020 by a “cooperating witness” that Oliver, a prison jailer at the time, was being paid to smuggle contraband items to an inmate there, according to the Oliver’s plea agreement. The witness said the inmate’s girlfriend paid Oliver $ 200 per contraband item he smuggled into the prison for the inmate, which included cell phones and, on one occasion, methamphetamine.

The jailers searched the inmate’s cell on March 29, 2020, the agreement said. They found a cell phone, an external power bank for charging mobile devices, several cell phone chargers, and loose cell phone parts and wires. Oliver’s cell phone recordings also showed frequent calls and texts between him and the inmate’s girlfriend.

The girlfriend admitted to FBI agents that she paid Oliver to smuggle for the inmate, according to the deal. After agreeing to cooperate with the investigation, she made a taped phone call to Oliver on April 29, 2020, in which Oliver agreed to smuggle another cell phone into the jail. He also made statements indicating that he had smuggled in the past, according to the agreement.

Oliver said in an interview on May 5, 2020, he was paid $ 200 by the inmate’s girlfriend to smuggle a cell phone into the inmate’s jail, according to the deal. He then smuggled another cell phone for this inmate, along with what he believed to be tobacco three to four times.

Oliver said he started smuggling for the inmate because the inmate learned that Oliver had “fallen behind” on his bills and offered to pay him to do so, according to the agreement. The inmate’s girlfriend paid him a total of $ 300 to $ 400 for this; however, he denied knowingly bringing methamphetamine into the prison, according to the agreement.

Philip Pevehouse, public information officer for the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office, said on Friday that Oliver’s last day as a jailer was May 5, 2020, although he was not fired. Oliver had worked in this capacity for about six months.

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