Federal prosecutors this week charged an employee of the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma with smuggling drugs to people detained in the facility.
Larry Joe Heath Jr. is accused of one count of distribution of cocaine, according to records filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.
Heath is alleged to have smuggled cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and other contraband into the facility between September 2010 and January 2011, court records show.
The center, which is on the Tideflats, houses people suspected of being in the United States illegally and other immigration violations.
Federal investigators received a tip about the alleged smuggling in late January and confronted Heath, court records show.
He allegedly told investigators that he carried the drugs into the center in his pocket or socks and left the drugs in a mop closet, where detainees could access them. Heath received money in exchange for the drugs, records show.
Prosecutors also contend Heath used drugs with detainees while on the job.
Earlier this month, investigators viewed surveillance video from the pod where Heath works.
“Consistent with Heath’s admission, the video showed Heath entering and exiting the mop closet followed by a detainee shortly thereafter,” court records show.
He is to appear in court March 9 for a preliminary hearing.
Heath’s job status could not be determined.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said Heath is not a federal employee and referred questions to GEO Group Inc., the private contractor that runs the facility.
Efforts to reach a GEO Group spokesman Friday were unsuccessful.