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Inmate indicted in alleged drone prison smuggling plot

Inmate indicted in alleged drone prison smuggling plot
This was the drone that was intercepted in August near a Western Maryland prison. (Alison Knezevich / Baltimore Sun)

An inmate serving a life sentence for a murder conviction has been indicted along with two other men in an alleged plot to smuggle contraband into a western Maryland prison using a drone, corrections officials said.

The Allegany County grand jury returned a 33-count indictment last week against Charles Westley Brooks, 43, accusing him of attempting to have drugs, cell phones and other contraband delivered to the Western Correctional Institution, a maximum-security facility in Cumberland.

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Corrections officials said the plot was foiled on August 22 when investigators found two other men outside the prison setting up a small quadcopter drone for its flight. Authorities say they found porn, tobacco and the synthetic drug K2 in the men's vehicle.

Thaddeus Casimir Shortz, 25, of Knoxville in Frederick County, and Keith Brian Russell, 29, of Silver Spring, were charged and taken into custody. They were also indicted last week.

Russell's attorney said he was awaiting evidence from prosecutors before deciding how to handle the case. Attorneys for the other two men could not be reached.

Corrections officials say information gathered by prison intelligence staff led them to Brooks, but it's not clear exactly how investigators linked him to the alleged plot.

The incident was the first time someone has been accused of trying to use a remotely piloted drone to smuggle something into a Maryland prison, but the strategy had been put to use in other states in recent months.

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