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Prison officer, CCSD employee charged in phone smuggling scheme

Updated May 14, 2021 - 3:36 pm

Two prisoners, a Clark County School District employee and a Nevada Department of Corrections staff member are accused of participating in a phone smuggling scheme at High Desert State Prison.

Officials discovered cellphones belonging to two inmates, Semaje Evans and Jemar Matthews, in May 2019, according to a report from the Nevada attorney general’s office released Tuesday. Both phones were found to have made calls to another inmate, Alistair Houpe, and a woman named Deneasha Vega, according to the declaration of probable cause.

The School District confirmed that Vega was a “faces liaison” and worked for the district from 2014 until March, when she was suspended indefinitely without pay. Her job included family and community engagement services, a spokesman told the Review-Journal.

Investigators reviewed records and interviewed Matthews, who said he bought the phone from another inmate for $300. Phone records indicated that Vega bought the phones at a Walmart Supercenter, 4505 W. Charleston Blvd., for $80 before meeting with an employee at the prison, according to the report.

The employee was later determined to be corrections officer Jovan Motley, who worked in culinary. Motley told officers in the inspector general’s Clark County office, which was investigating the case, that he met with Vega at an Applebee’s near the Walmart and was promised $5,000 to complete the transaction.

“Motley indicated that the package was wrapped like a sub sandwich wrapped in plastic and never opened it however he confirmed he just put the package in his bag and introduced it into the institution and alludes to providing the package to inmate Alistair Houpe,” officials wrote.

When Motley did not get paid, he told officers, he refused to help Vega and Houpe in future purchases. Officials believe the pair planned to smuggle “drugs and possibly other illicit items.”

Matthews is charged with unlawful possession of a portable telecommunication device by a prisoner. He is scheduled for a court hearing May 26. He was previously imprisoned for attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and robbery. A murder charge was overturned, according to prison records.

Houpe and Vega are charged with bribery of a public officer and knowing or attempting to furnish a portable telecommunication device.

Vega pleaded guilty to attempted bribery of a public officer and is scheduled for sentencing July 29.

Houpe was initially serving time for robbery and home invasion. He is scheduled to appear in court again Thursday.

Motley is charged with other public officer receiving a bribe, misconduct of a public officer and knowing or attempting to furnish a portable telecommunication device. He was released on $3,000 bail in January and is scheduled for a hearing Thursday.

Evans was not charged in the case.

In 2015, former Nevada Department of Corrections officer Derland Blake was sentenced to five years probation after he helped smuggle phones, compact discs, chicken and alcohol into High Desert, about 40 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The contraband ended up with Ammar Harris, a self-proclaimed pimp sentenced to death after a Strip shooting that killed three people, and another inmate.

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter.

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