SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — A San Quentin State Prison guard pleaded guilty to smuggling dozens of cell phones into death row for condemned inmates in exchange for bribes, prosecutors said Monday.
Prison guard Keith Christopher, 38 of Pittsburg, Calif., and three co-defendants admitted to orchestrating and participating in the criminal conspiracy.
The guard’s co-defendants included a 46-year-old Las Vegas woman, Tanisa Smith-Symes, who was motivated by her romantic relationship with a death row inmate, prosecutors said. The other two co-defendants were identified as Isaiah Wells, 33, of Tracy, Calif., and Dustin Albini, 38, of Pittsburg, Calif.
The group was indicted in September. Cell phones are deemed contraband for prisoners because they create safety and security risks for prison employees and other inmates, prosecutors said.
In a plea deal, Christopher admitted that in 2019 he orchestrated a conspiracy involving Wells, Albini, Smith-Symes, and a condemned inmate identified only as “Inmate 1.”
The guard accepted bribes in exchange for smuggling cell phones to Inmate 1, who then sold the phones to other inmates, prosecutors said.
Christopher admitted that in December of 2019, Inmate 1 arranged for 10 cell phones to be shipped to Smith-Symes’ home. Christopher instructed Smith-Symes to send the phones to Albini’s residence in Pittsburg, Calif.
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Smith-Symes informed Inmate 1 that Christopher’s price for smuggling was $5,000. Christopher admitted that he collected the bribe money from Wells and Albini. Christopher then collected the 10 phones from Albini and smuggled to Inmate 1.
In a May of 2020 transaction, Christopher smuggled 15 more cell phones for Inmate 1 in exchange for $6,500.
Smith-Symes described in her plea agreement that in 2018 she began a romantic relationship with the condemned Inmate 1. Starting in 2019, Inmate 1 began asking for favors, eventually asking her to help smuggling contraband cell phones.
Each defendant pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Each defendant also pleaded guilty to two counts of bribery of a public official, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. U.S. District Judge Susan Illston will sentence Christopher and Wells on January 13.