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A brawny prison guard who artfully smuggled contraband behind bars for inmates including bodybuilding magazines using a protein shaker has narrowly dodged a lengthy jail sentence and instead been slapped with an excruciating fine.
On Monday 18th October 2021, former prison guard Wesley Newell faced the County Court of Victoria and was instructed to pay a whopping $40,000 fine along with serving a two-year community-based order after pleading guilty to smuggling contraband into the Ravenhall Correctional Centre.
Mr Newell, a 43-year-old bodybuilding champion, was a guard at the facility dating back to 2019 when he trafficked tobacco, a glass pipe and drill bits into the correctional centre, cunningly concealing some of the items in a protein shaker.
In early 2020, he was caught out for the offence – which sees tobacco banned in prison where it is traded between inmates, while drill bits are prised because they can be utilised to shroud items in jail cells.
Following the discovery of Mr Newell’s wrongdoing, he shortly confessed to his crimes, admitting also that he received thousands of dollars in bribes from inmates to smuggle the items.
Judge Concludes Mr Newell “Exploited Position and Knowledge of Prison System” with “Sophistication and Planning”
As Mr Newell’s court hearing, Judge Michael Bourke described his offending as a serious violation that abused the position and intelligence he held of the prison.
“Your offending is self-evidently a very serious breach of trust,” Judge Bourke said.
“It has some sophistication and planning and exploited your position and knowledge of the prison system.”
The court heard that over a two-week course in late December 2019 and early January 2020, Mr Newell rustled 26 pouches of tobacco, two bodybuilding magazines, a glass pipe, a magnet bar and two drill bits into prison facility.
Over time, he had been approached by prisoners to carry this out.
In exchange, Mr Newell received $11,200 into his bank account, which were paid in three separate deposits.
The point of suspicion arose when prison authorities began noticing the guard’s interaction with inmates.
This prompted them to review security footage, which led to the disturbing discovery of Mr Newell using a protein shaker to pass on the goods.
Within a matter of days, bosses at the correctional centre carried out a search of a staff area and found a matching protein shaker in the guard’s pigeonhole.
Initially, the shaker was empty.
However, about half an hour later, authorities observed that it had been placed into Mr Newell’s bag – and now, it was filled with tobacco and drill bits.
Mr Newell was soon confronted by his bosses.
The guard admitted to his offending and eventually made a full confession to police, volunteering other information including that he had also trafficked other items.
“I had two bodybuilding magazines, which were actually, because it was someone’s birthday in there, a prisoner, and I, I didn’t realise that’s a felony also,” Mr Newell said.
In handing down his sentence, Judge Bourke acknowledged that Mr Newell has no criminal record and had personally paid rent for victims of domestic violence.
Ultimately, Judge Bourke ordered the former guard to complete 300 hours of community service and pay a $40,000 fine.
Since being caught, Mr Newell has been working as a personal trainer.
He is also a contractor with the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Across Australia, prisons prohibit a range of goods – referred to as contraband – from entering the grounds. The maximum penalties range from 6-months to 2-years imprisonment under section 253C of the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 (NSW).
These items include drugs, tobacco, alcohol, mobile phones, lighters, weapons, syringes and even electronic devices such as computers.
In the case of NSW, if you are caught smuggling prohibited goods into a place of detention, or merely attempting to do so, you can face very serious criminal penalties including jail time and substantial fines.
Smuggling alcohol, spirituous or fermented liquor into prison without lawful authority attracts a maximum of 6-months.
Smuggling poisons into prison without lawful authority warrants up to two-years imprisonment or a $2,200 fine, or both.
Smuggling no more than small quantity of prohibits drugs or a plant without lawful authority attracts up to two-years imprisonment or a $5,500 fine, or both.
Click here for drug quantities and offences in NSW.
Additionally, if you are caught, without reasonable excuse, using or having in possession of a mobile phone or any part of it (including a mobile phone IM card or charger) into an NSW prison, the maximum penalty you can face is two years in jail, a fine of $5,500, or both, under section 253F of the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 (NSW).