- Associated Press - Monday, July 11, 2016

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Four of the five people accused of smuggling drugs into Montana State Prison through the prison laundry plan to plead guilty to conspiracy charges, prosecutors and a defense attorney said Monday.

Three of the defendants have already filed plea agreements in U.S. District Court, including the laundry worker, Erin Bernhardt, according to court filings.

The fourth, a prisoner named Ian Scott Barclay who prosecutors say spearheaded the operation, also plans to enter a plea deal with prosecutors, said his attorney, Palmer Hoovestal.

“He’ll likely plead. I Just need some additional time,” Hoovestal said.

Barclay persuaded Bernhardt to smuggle drugs to him through the prison laundry in exchange for cash bribes in April 2015, according to an account of the scheme by federal prosecutors outlined in court filings.

A friend of Barclay’s named Cordero Metzker arranged to have two women in Tennessee mail the methamphetamine and a drug called Suboxone to Bernhardt between April and August 2015, authorities say.

In the first transaction, Cordero sent one of the women, Rachel Ross of Collierville, $400 to buy Subuxone, according to prosecutors. Ross mailed the drugs to Bernhardt, who brought them to Barclay, who sold to other inmates and pocketed between $4,000 and $5,000, authorities said.

That exchange was repeated at least two times with methamphetamine between May and August 2015, according to prosecutors, with Bernhardt receiving at least $1,000 in cash for her role.

Bernhardt, Metzker and Ross have made deals with prosecutors to plead guilty to conspiracy with the intent to possess and distribute controlled substances. Bernhardt also plans to plead guilty to accepting bribes.

In return, prosecutors said they will drop additional charges and recommend lighter sentences.

The fifth defendant, the second Tennessee woman accused of securing the drugs, Lauren Hoskins of Somerville, has not filed a plea agreement. Her attorney, Tim Williams of Memphis, did not return a call for comment on Monday.

The agreements must be accepted by a judge. A July 19 hearing has been set for Metzker and an Aug. 17 hearing for Ross. Bernhardt’s plea deal was just filed on Friday, and a hearing has not yet been set.

The prison laundry drug smuggling scheme is separate from another case in which a Montana State Prison guard pleaded guilty to smuggling marijuana and tobacco to inmates.

Martin Reap said in June that he sneaked contraband into Deer Lodge prison 20 times until he was caught in April.

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