Feds investigating suspected smuggling at Wisconsin prison, 11 workers suspended in probe

Mar 7, 2024, 11:36 AM | Updated: 2:08 pm

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Federal authorities have been investigating an apparent smuggling operation involving employees at a troubled Wisconsin prison, Gov. Tony Evers’ office said Thursday.

The probe has resulted in the suspension of nearly a dozen Waupun Correctional Institution employees to date, according to the state Department of Corrections.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported the investigation. Evers spokesperson Britt Cudaback told The Associated Press in an email Thursday that the governor and Department of Corrections officials asked the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal authorities in June 2023 to launch the probe.

Cudaback said that they made the request after multiple sweeps of Waupun housing units revealed people in the prison were obtaining prohibited items such as cellphones and illegal drugs. An initial investigation by the Department of Corrections uncovered allegations that prison employees were involved, including information suggesting “financial crimes” may have occurred, Cudaback said.

She did not elaborate on the nature of those allegations and didn’t immediately respond to a follow-up email seeking details.

The governor and the Department of Corrections decided to ask federal authorities to investigate given the potential involvement of employees and the multi-jurisdictional nature of the allegations, Cudaback said.

According to the Department of Corrections, 11 prison employees have been placed on administrative leave since May 2023. Three of them were placed on leave without pay; the others were placed on leave with pay. Any roles in the alleged smuggling ring were unclear.

U.S. Department of Justice spokesperson Matthew Nies declined to comment, saying only that agency policy is to neither confirm nor deny the existence of investigations.

Four inmates have died at Waupun since June. The first was Dean Hoffmann, who killed himself in solitary confinement that month. Tyshun Lemons died of a fentanyl overdose on Oct. 2, and Cameron Williams died of a stroke on Oct. 30. Donald Maier was found dead at the facility on Feb. 22. His death remains under investigation.

The Department of Corrections instituted lockdowns at Waupun as well as at prisons in Green Bay and Stanley last year because of a shortage of guards.

A group of Waupun inmates filed a federal lawsuit in October saying lockdown conditions at the facility amount to cruel and unusual punishment. And last month Hoffmann’s daughter filed a federal lawsuit alleging Waupun officials failed to provide her father with adequate mental health care and medications. Those cases are pending.

Stanley resumed normal operations in late November. Movement restrictions have eased at Waupun and Green Bay, but some remain in place.

National News

Associated Press

Sweltering temperatures persist across the US, while floodwaters inundate the Midwest

Millions of Americans sweated through a scorching weekend as temperatures soared across the U.S., while residents were rescued from floodwaters that forced evacuations across the Midwest. One person was killed during flooding in South Dakota, the governor said. From the mid-Atlantic to Maine, across the Great Lakes region, and throughout the West to California, public […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

3 Columbia University administrators put on leave over alleged text exchange at antisemitism panel

NEW YORK (AP) — Columbia University said it has placed three administrators on leave while it investigates allegations that they exchanged unprofessional text messages while attending a panel discussion about antisemitism on campus. The university said the administrators work for its undergraduate Columbia College, which hosted the panel discussion “Jewish Life on Campus: Past, Present […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Man charged in shooting that critically wounded Philadelphia officer, police say

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A 36-year-old Philadelphia man was charged Sunday with attempted murder in connection with a shooting that critically wounded a police officer after a traffic stop, police said. Ramon Rodriguez Vazquez also faces charges that include aggravated assault and home invasion, police said. The 31-year-old officer and his partner stopped a car carrying […]

10 hours ago

Associated Press

California boy, 4, who disappeared from campground found safe after 22 hours alone in wilderness

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A 4-year-old California boy who wandered away from a campground in the Sierra National Forest was found safe after spending 22 hours alone in the wilderness, authorities said. A search-and-rescue team of about 50 officers and volunteers set out around 11 a.m. Thursday after the child was reported missing from the […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

One man died and five others were hospitalized in downtown St. Louis shooting

ST. LOUIS (AP) — One man is dead and five others have been wounded in a downtown St. Louis shooting, police said. Police believe women were fighting in a park when men stepped in and drew firearms, according to a statement from St. Louis police. The man who died likely was in his mid-twenties and […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

Michigan sheriff’s deputy fatally shot pursuing a stolen vehicle in Detroit

DETROIT (AP) — A Michigan county sheriff’s deputy was fatally shot while pursing a suspected stolen vehicle in Detroit, the Oakland County sheriff’s office said Sunday. Bradley J. Reckling, who was on duty in an unmarked car, was following a 2022 Chevy Equinox Saturday evening after the vehicle was reported stolen earlier in the day […]

12 hours ago

Feds investigating suspected smuggling at Wisconsin prison, 11 workers suspended in probe