Pittsburgh man with life sentence charged with trafficking synthetic drugs to jail by mail

A Lincoln-Lemington man serving a life sentence for first-degree murder has been indicted by a federal grand jury for smuggling synthetic drugs into a state prison under cover of a legal letter from the Court of Pleas Commons of Allegheny County.

Rodney Howard, 36, is currently incarcerated at Mahanoy State Correctional Facility in Schuylkill County.

He, along with Dustin Hill, 34, who is at SCI- Benner, and DeAndre Jackson, 28, of Whitehall, were indicted in Pittsburgh on July 20, charged with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance for their efforts to obtain 30 sheets of cotton-fiber paper soaked in a synthetic cannabinoid in Dallas State Prison.

Howard and Jackson are half-brothers.

An unsealed search warrant request in the case sets out details of the scheme, including Howard’s instructions to Jackson on how to send the package and how to pay Hill, who was placed in solitary confinement after receiving illicit mail.

As part of their investigation, United States Postal Inspection Service agents obtained Jackson’s cell phone, in which they said they found photos of undated handwritten letters from Howard.

In a letter, Howard explained how to send “legal mail”, officers said, and instructed the recipient to purchase cotton-fiber paper and print their preliminary hearing transcripts on it.

“” My brother will tell you how to send it with the tracker and all that good stuff. the rest.”

Howard also wrote that “‘I need a lawyer who will send it without questioning the [stuff].'”

According to the search warrant request, investigators believe Jackson took a criminal record sheet from another person, whose case was before Judge Jeffrey A. Manning, and changed the name on that document to “Dustin Hill”.

On January 29, a manila envelope with Manning’s court office listed as the return address was mailed to Hill at SCI Dallas.

According to the search warrant request, the package contained approximately 30 sheets of cotton fiber paper, which had been soaked in ADB-BUTINACA, a synthetic cannabinoid.

The envelope and the documents inside matched images Jackson emailed himself, investigators said.

When the package was received at the jail, it was treated as legal mail, and on February 9, correctional officers brought the envelope to Hill’s cell and opened it in front of him.

However, officers recognized that the paper had been dipped in a controlled substance and brought it to the security office.

There, “the two correctional officers who handled the subject envelope fell ill with an elevated heart rate, high blood pressure and nausea. One of the officers vomited repeatedly. They were taken to the emergency room by ambulance, were treated and were later released,” the search warrant request reads.

Hill denied knowledge of the contents of the package and was moved to restricted accommodation, also known as “the hole”.

According to the search warrant request, investigators found another letter from Howard on Jackson’s phone, in which Howard told him that the package he had sent had been seized.

“‘Brother,'” he wrote. “Listen, the last joints have been sucked up by the [expletive] pigs. It was a [expletive] super cop working Tuesday morning when he took them to Lil Homie’s cell. He said they didn’t look good so he never gave them to her. He took them and left the block. A few hours later, they come to ask Lil Homie to take him to the hole. Today is Thursday they still haven’t come [mess] with me, so right now it’s still solid.

“The letter adds ‘Please don’t be afraid, no one has to worry. Lil Homie never had it so they can’t do it [anything] because they didn’t give it to him. The quarterback never gets in trouble because it stops with me. Plus, Lil Homie still had his from the last race. I propose that now for him.

On another page, marked with an asterisk, Howard wrote: “’Very important: The little homie who went to the hole. It remains solid. He won’t mention my name. We need to start sending our money to our books. He gets 9 stacks.’ It needs to start as soon as possible but you can’t send it because you’re on my list. He then says that someone else needs to “set up a [prisoner] account, someone who is not on my list. …[I]t just can’t be related to me. He had to be paid because he didn’t lie down, he followed all my instructions.

During a March 5 phone call between Howard and Jackson, Howard told Jackson to help him, saying “he had to ‘keep my word because my name is all I have’.”

Jackson replied that he could create a different account. About half an hour later, investigators said someone using Jackson’s email and mailing address had created a new Department of Corrections account under the name Kevin Johnson. This account then put $300 into Hill’s inmate’s account. This same amount was added again on March 9 and again on March 22.

“Based on his training and experience, the DOC investigator believes these communications involve Howard directing Jackson to pay Dustin Hill for receiving drugs in the mail, for not speaking out about their trafficking conspiracy. drugs and for the inconvenience of Hill’s placement in the RHU due to his receipt of drugs from Howard,” the search warrant request states. “In this context, the DOC investigator believes that Howard referred to the keeping his name to mean that he wanted to preserve his reputation by paying Hill as promised and remaining silent on his behalf.”

In a separate indictment, Jackson and Howard, along with Howard’s sister Rodneka Howard, 27, of North Versailles, are also charged with fraud for their attempt to obtain pandemic unemployment benefits for Howard and two other unidentified inmates at a state prison.

Howard was convicted of the January 20, 2014, shooting death of Hosea Davis, 37, in Larimer.

Paula Reed Ward is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Paula by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Alvin J. Chase