Essex Jail Officer, GF Stung By FBI In Scheme To Smuggle In Tobacco, Cell Phones: Feds

A corrections officer and his girlfriend were busted for smuggling tobacco and cellphones into the Essex County Jail from a source who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent, federal authorities said.

Essex County Correctional Facility (ECCF)

Essex County Correctional Facility (ECCF)

Photo Credit: GoogleMaps Street View

Efrin Wade, 34, and Yairisa Lizardo, 29, both of Jersey City, accepted $14,000 for the illegal acts and apparently were counting on another $30,000 when they were busted, U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Philip Sellinger said following their arrests on Tuesday, March 14.

Wade, who’d worked as a corrections officer at the Essex County Correctional Facility (ECCF) in Newark since February 2020, began communicating in January with “an individual whom he believed was seeking to smuggle contraband to inmates at ECCF for sale to other inmates,” Sellinger said.

“Unbeknownst to Wade, this individual was in reality an undercover FBI agent,” the U.S. attorney said.

Wade sent Lizardo to meet with the undercover agent in early February in a parking lot in Bayonne, where she “accepted $10,000 in cash and a substantial quantity of tobacco for Wade to smuggle into ECCF,” Sellinger said.

“Over the subsequent weeks, Wade left this tobacco in concealed locations within ECCF believing it would be retrieved by inmates,” he said. “However, law enforcement recovered these items after Wade relayed the concealed locations to the undercover agent.”

Wade met the agent days later in Jersey City, where he collected a cell phone “concealed with tobacco,” Sellinger said.

Once again, investigators collected the package where Wade said he’d hidden it, the U.S. attorney said.

Wade then collected $4,000 from with the agent in the same parking lot, he said.

Wade also “explained his plans to smuggle in an additional 15 contraband cell phones, which were to be supplied to him by the undercover agent,” Sellinger said.

“Wade expected to be paid at least $30,000 for smuggling these cell phones into ECCF in late March,” the U.S. attorney said. “Wade expected that the cell phones would then be resold to inmates for approximately $5,000 per phone.”

Agents took him into custody and found him carrying several packs of contraband cigarettes, as well as tobacco packs and cigars, Sellinger said.

Wade and Lizardo were both charged with a federal crime known as extortion under color of official right. A U.S. magistrate judge released each of them on $100,000 unsecured bond.

Sellinger credited special agents with the FBI and investigators of the Internal Affairs Unit of the Essex County Department of Corrections with the investigation leading to Tuesday’s arrests.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark J. McCarren of his Special Prosecutions Division in Newark is handling the case for the government.

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