If you're a fan of crime or prison dramas, you probably know a bit about smuggling contraband into jail. TV has taught the general public how it's done: Friends and family can sneak things into visiting rooms on their person in rather unsanitary ways; jaded, underpaid, or lonely prison guards can be bribed to be prisoners' couriers to the world; and, more recently, drones can serve as a direct-to-consumer delivery service from the outside.
But that's all pretty straightforward, and nowhere near as interesting as a smuggling scheme cooked up by a group of three prisoners at the Cook County jail in Chicago and their girlfriends on the outside. In a story seemingly ready-made for the small screen, five people have now pleaded guilty to sneaking weed, booze, and tobacco into jail inside submarine sandwiches.
According to the Chicago Sun Times, in 2013, a group of inmates began working with their significant others to sneak illicit goods into jail inside hollowed-out "Jim Shoe" sandwiches. The Jim Shoe is a Chicago specialty, piled high with Italian beef, gyro meat, and corned beef—and in this case, an ounce bag of weed or some other party supplies.
According to the feds, Thadieus "Weasy" Goods, Lavangelist "Juicy" Powell, and Price "Primo" Johnson sold the smuggled weed on the inside for five times its street value. Goods's wife, Pearlisa "Wang Wang" Stevenson (some really solid nicknames happening here), was allegedly the sandwich maker, and Jason "Murda" Marek was identified as the corrections officer who snuck the sandwiches into the jail's maximum-security tier—until he was caught with two hollowed out Jim Shoes containing bags of alcohol and tobacco. Talk about a fully-loaded sandwich.
The Chicago Sun Times reports that the scheme began when one of the inmates paid Marek $200 for used chewing tobacco, which, wow. Seeing a business opportunity, the dank sandwich delivery service got rolling.
The story is back in the news because Stephanie Lewis, Johnson's wife, recently became the fifth person to go down for the drug sub scheme when she pleaded guilty to using law enforcement databases to look up information about Marek. Lewis had looked up the information in order to send people to Marek's house to threaten and pressure him into continuing to bring the sandwiches into the clink.
The bread-based business has since died down at the Cook County jail, but its legacy lives on. Recently, a probation officer was jailed when she was busted for smuggling a (weed-free) Publix sub to her ex-boyfriend in a Tallahassee-area jail—an X-ray search revealed the man had hidden the sandwich in his clothes. Could a prison near you be a nexus of sandwich smuggling? Stay tuned to find out.