Former prison officer pleads guilty in cellphone smuggling

A former Nevada Department of Corrections officer pleaded guilty Wednesday in a scheme to get smartphones into High Desert State Prison.

Derland Blake, 30, admitted to helping smuggle phones, food and alcohol to Ammar Harris, a self-proclaimed pimp who is facing trial in a Strip shooting that killed three people, and another inmate.

Authorities said Harris sent $2,000 to “an associate,” Amy Colon, who wired the money to Charmain Simmons, the mother of fellow inmate Derrick McKnight. Simmons slipped the cash to Reann Gadson, who bought two Verizon Wireless phones and handed them off to Olga Gonzalez, state prosecutors said.

Gadson and Gonzalez then met with Blake, alleged to have smuggled the phones and other items to the inmates on May 9, investigators with the Nevada attorney general’s office said.

Prison officials found two Verizon Wireless phones, chargers and manuals in Harris’ High Desert cell and learned that the phones had been activated five days prior at a Wal-Mart on East Serene Avenue, prosecutors said.

After the phones were found in Harris’ cell, he was moved to Ely State Prison, Nevada’s highest security prison.

A social media account tied to Harris has remained active since his arrest last year, posting updates about his address and inmate information at High Desert and Ely prisons.

Blake was placed on administrative leave May 22. He faces up to five years in prison at a January sentencing, but could also receive probation.

Harris is facing the death penalty if convicted of murder charges in the February 2013 shooting on the Strip that left three people dead. He is accused of shooting reputed pimp Kenneth “Kenny” Clutch Cherry, Jr. as the two drove separate vehicles on the Strip early Feb. 21, 2013.

Cherry then crashed his car into a taxi, which burst into flames, killing the driver, Michael Boldon, and his passenger, Sandra Sutton-Wasmund of Maple Valley, Wash.

Harris is due back in court Oct.1.

Contact reporter David Ferrara at or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter: @randompoker.

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