- Associated Press - Monday, February 29, 2016

WAYNESBURG, Pa. (AP) - Three guards at a state prison in southwestern Pennsylvania have been charged with selling illegal electronics to inmates that one employee likened to “Rent-a-Center.”

Inmates at the prison based in Waynesburg, Greene County, can buy televisions, radios and other items through the prison’s commissary or other approved vendors, but they aren’t allowed to buy the items from other sources.

State corrections investigators say the guards recycled items from “hot trash,” which are electronics seized from inmates or left behind by those who are freed. Those items are supposed to be destroyed.

Instead, the guards are accused of changing the inmate numbers on the items and charging the inmates fees for that work. They are also accused of fudging computer records to cover up the illegal transactions, according to The (Washington) Observer-Reporter.

The guards named in the complaint are John Smith Jr., of Caldwell, Ohio, Michael Berry Jr., of Clarksville, and Andrew Schneider, of Grindstone.

A message seeking comment from David Russo, the attorney representing Berry, wasn’t immediately returned Monday. No attorneys were listed for Smith or Schneider.

The complaint also alleges that one inmate involved in the scheme told investigators that Berry would on occasion smuggle narcotics into the strip room and allowed inmates to distribute them in the prison. However, the complaint said no controlled substances were recovered during the investigation.

The list of property seized after the investigation that was transferred without authorization included 35 televisions, 10 keyboards and 20 radios, with an estimated value between $7,000 and over $13,000, the complaint said.

State prison officials haven’t commented on the charges. A message seeking comment from Susan McNaughton, the department of corrections press secretary, wasn’t returned Monday.

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