Indictment: Pair used drones to drop drug packages at SW Ohio prison

LEBANON, Ohio (AP) — Two men allegedly used a drone to drop drugs and cell phones into the yard at an Ohio prison last summer in what authorities described as an “Easter egg hunt” for inmates.

Michael Eugene Russell Williford Jr., 28, of East Cleveland, and Bryan Douglas Shepherd, 27, of Richmond Heights, were indicated by a Warren County grand jury this week on 23 counts, including aggravated trafficking and possession of drugs and possessing criminal tools. It wasn’t known Tuesday if either man has retained an attorney.

The two men were staying at a hotel in Monroe when they used glue to cover the small drug packages with turf, according to the indictment. They then used a drone to transport the packages onto the grounds of the Warren Correctional Institution in Lebanon in July and August.

“I would characterize it as a prison Easter egg hunt,” Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said. He declined to say whether any inmates had obtained any of the packages before law enforcement intervened.

Prison officials tracked a drone to the hotel on July 30, and another drone was launched a few days later. Authorities soon obtained a search warrant for the hotel room, and video on the drone showed it dropping the packages at WCI and two other prisons in Mansfield and Chillicothe. Authorities haven’t said though when the drug packages were dropped at the latter two sites.

Officials have long warned about drone deliveries of contraband to jail and prison inmates. In 2019, authorities released video they said showed an inmate collecting contraband dropped by drone over an outdoor exercise yard at Cuyahoga County Jail’s complex in Euclid in suburban Cleveland.

In 2015, state prison officials said a drone dropped a package of drugs into a yard at Mansfield Correctional Institution in north-central Ohio while inmates were outside, sparking a fight.