TRENTON - Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced that two former state correction officers were sentenced to prison today for smuggling a cell phone to an inmate at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel, the state’s correction facility for sex offenders.
Former correction officers Ardones V. Livingston, 55, of Browns Mills, and Latasha Y. Walker, 44, of Rahway, were found guilty at trial by a Middlesex County jury on June 20 of conspiring to smuggle the cell phone to the inmate. Livingston was convicted of second-degree conspiracy and third-degree bribery. He was sentenced today to five years in state prison by Superior Court Judge James F. Mulvihill. He received a five-year sentence on the conspiracy charge and a concurrent three-year sentence on the bribery charge.
Walker was convicted of second-degree conspiracy. She was also sentenced today to five years in state prison by Judge Mulvihill. Livingston and Walker were terminated from their positions and are permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey. Judge Mulvihill ordered Livingston, who had been employed by the state for 10 years, to forfeit his entire state pension.
The charges resulted from an investigation by the Department of Corrections Special Investigations Division and the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. Deputy Attorney General Russell J. Curley tried the case and handled the sentencing.
“Keeping cell phones out of our prisons is a major safety and security issue, because inmates who can communicate surreptitiously with associates outside of prison can participate in criminal activity and pose a threat both inside and outside of the prison walls,” said Attorney General Chiesa. “By smuggling a cell phone to an inmate, these correction officers betrayed the public and their fellow correction officers.”
“We will continue to work aggressively with the Department of Corrections to investigate and prosecute anyone involved in smuggling cell phones into our prisons,” said Director Stephen J. Taylor of the Division of Criminal Justice. “These prison sentences should send a strong deterrent message to anyone who might engage in these crimes.”
The state’s investigation revealed that Frank Rodriquez, 52, an inmate in the Avenel facility who is serving a 20-year sentence for kidnapping, robbery and sexual assault, paid $500 to Livingston and Walker to have them smuggle a cell phone to him in January 2009. Rodriguez instructed his girlfriend, Traci C. Baio, 45, of Spotswood, to pay Livingston to smuggle the phone to him. Livingston worked at the Avenel facility, and Walker formerly worked there with him. Rodriguez had Baio mail the cell phone to Walker. Livingston and Walker arranged for the phone to be delivered to Rodriquez in the prison. The state investigation began when the phone was found in the prison commissary by an inmate in February 2009 and turned over to correction officers.
Livingston, Walker, Rodriguez and Baio were indicted by a state grand jury on Oct. 6, 2010. Rodriguez pleaded guilty on Nov. 10, 2011, to charges of conspiracy, bribery and possession of a cell phone in prison. He was sentenced in January by Superior Court Judge Bradley J. Ferencz to a 10-year prison sentence, to run consecutively to his current prison sentence. Baio pleaded guilty on Jan. 20, 2012 to second-degree conspiracy. She was sentenced to five years in prison on June 28 by Judge Ferencz.
The investigation was conducted for the Department of Corrections Special Investigations Division by Senior Investigator Randy Valentin. It was conducted for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau by Deputy Attorney General Curley and Detective Scott Caponi. Deputy Attorney General Curley presented the case to the state grand jury.
Attorney General Chiesa and Director Taylor noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free tipline 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to report corruption, financial fraud and other suspected crimes. Additionally, the public can log on to the Division of Criminal Justice website at www.njdcj.org to report wrongdoing. All information received through the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Tipline or website will remain confidential.