- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A Montana State Prison guard pleaded guilty Wednesday to smuggling marijuana and tobacco to inmates, telling a judge that he snuck contraband into the Deer Lodge prison 20 times over the course of about a year.

In return, associates of the inmates sent Martin Reap, 25, payments between $100 and $150 through the mail or by wire transfer to Walmart, Reap told U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon. In all, Reap smuggled in between nine and 16 ounces of marijuana, a small amount of the synthetic marijuana called spice, and he took between $6,300 and $6,500.

“I know I made a mistake,” Reap said after the hearing. “I feel like I’m doing the right thing by turning myself in.”

Haddon accepted Reap’s guilty plea and set a sentencing date of Oct. 18. As part of a plea agreement, federal prosecutors plan to drop additional charges of drug conspiracy, possession and distribution, and will recommend a lighter sentence than the maximum 10-year prison sentence the bribery charge calls for.

Prosecutors also could move for an even lighter sentence if he cooperates with the investigation, according to the plea agreement.

Inmates asked Reap to provide them with tobacco starting in 2014, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Thaggard. Reap started smuggling drugs along with the tobacco between Feb. 1, 2015 and April of this year, Thaggard said.

The inmates, who have not been named by prosecutors, then distributed the drugs and tobacco to other prisoners, according to Thaggard.

Reap started working at the prison in 2012 and has been suspended without pay since May.

Reap’s family, who watched the courtroom proceedings, said this was the young guard’s first criminal offense.

“He’s a good kid who got himself in a bad situation,” his father, Robert Reap, said.

FBI agents began investigating allegations of contraband being smuggled into the prison in 2015.

The investigation has led to a separate indictment charging five people with smuggling methamphetamine and another drug to inmates through a prison laundry worker.

Two women in Tennessee and a former Montana State Prison inmate got the drugs to Erin Bernhardt, the laundry worker, who then brought them to an inmate named Ian Scott Barclay, according to the indictment.

The five have pleaded not guilty to charges related to the alleged scheme. They are scheduled to go to trial on July 25.


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