Former prison guard pleads guilty to drug smuggling charge

Mark Damas, center, leaving court on Tuesday, with his attorney Rustam Barbee in front of him.

A former Oahu prison guard pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court.

Mark Damas admitted to a judge that he smuggled crystal methamphetamine into Halawa Correctional Facility and accepted at least $5,000 in bribes for it.

His crimes took place over a six-month period last year.

Damas initially pleaded not guilty, but his lawyer later explained why he changed his plea.

“In recognition of the government’s case,” Damas’ attorney Rustam Barbee said, “he decided to accept responsibility and take his punishment.”

Damas offered no comment after he left Tuesday’s hearing. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison when he’s sentenced on November 10.

The following is a statement from Public Safety Department Director Ted Sakai:

As with prison systems across the country, there are constant problems with contraband. However, we have made a concerted effort to root out contraband and strengthen procedures. Thanks to partnerships with the FBI, DEA, IRS and the County Police Departments, we are arresting individuals who commit illegal activities within our facilities and letting others know that we will not tolerate it. The arrest of 17 inmates and seven staff in the past year shows that our efforts are paying off. These investigations are on-going and we will strive to make every facility as safe and contraband free as possible.

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