Detained, several others charged with drug trafficking | southeast pennsylvania

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Two inmates, along with several co-conspirators, face charges of allegedly attempting to smuggle drugs inside a county jail.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele announced charges against inmate Mason Hall, 22, and three co-conspirators, inmate Luis Valazquez, 37; Latashia Lucas, 31, of Norristown and Patrick Perna, 21, of Norristown.

The group faces charges related to a scheme to smuggle papers soaked in illegal drugs into the Montgomery County Correctional Center, Steele said in a press release Thursday.

The Montgomery County Detective’s Office received information about a possible conspiracy to smuggle illegal drugs into the facility. As a result, authorities opened an investigation and discovered that the case involved a conspiracy between two inmates housed in the maximum security section of the prison, Hall and Valasquez, and two inmates outside the prison, Perna and Lucas, according to the release.

The inmates’ plan was to sell paper doused in synthetic marijuana, the statement said.

Detectives recovered a handwritten letter from Hall to Perna, dated December 11, 2021, detailing the plan to smuggle drugs into the prison by spraying them with controlled substances. Hall mentioned his goal of earning $100,000 from sales before heading upstate, according to the statement.

The investigation revealed that the first attempt to smuggle drugs into the prison was from Lucas. About a month after Valazquez’s arrest, according to Lucas, she received a piece of construction paper at her house.

Valazquez allegedly asked Lucas to have his children draw on the paper and then send him to prison. Lucas did as he was asked, but the document was rejected by prison officials on November 3, 2021 and returned to Lucas. Records show that this rejection was because “colored crayon artwork is not permitted in the facility.”

About three weeks after this attempt, Lucas was the conduit to get the pulverized paper to Perna, under the direction of Hall and Valazquez. Perna then sent a handwritten letter on November 15, 2021 to Hall, which was intercepted by prison officials and not delivered due to a “smudged” appearance. He was returned to Perna’s home and was recovered there by detectives while executing a search warrant.

Tests on the letter revealed that it had in fact been doused with cocaine, according to the statement.

Hall has been at MCCF since his arrest on Oct. 18, 2019, on charges of rape, involuntary deviated sex, sexual assault and several other charges related to the sexual assault at gunpoint of a jogging woman in Norristown Farm Park on the morning of August 1, 2017 leaving behind its DNA, according to the release.

Hall pleaded guilty to several of those charges and is expected to be sentenced on March 2, 2022.

The new felony charges against Hall and Valazquez are attempted possession of contraband by an inmate, conspiracy, attempted sale of a controlled substance to an inmate, and related charges.

They were arraigned and had bond set at $77 since both Hall and Valazquez were at the MCCF on high bail with other cases, the statement said.

The preliminary hearing for these two defendants is scheduled for the morning of February 15.

Lucas and Perna have been charged with felony conspiracy, attempted sale of controlled substances to an inmate and other related charges, the statement said.

Lucas and Perna’s bail was set at an unsecured $50,000 and they were released.

Their preliminary hearing will take place on the morning of February 8.

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