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Attorney smuggled heroin into jail in greeting card, D.A. says

April 11, 2013|By Andrew Blankstein
  • A sheriff's deputy locks down inmates in a cellblock at the North County Correctional Facility at the Pitchess Dentention Center in Castaic in 2006.
A sheriff's deputy locks down inmates in a cellblock at the North County… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)

Prosecutors charged an attorney with half a dozen felony counts for allegedly trying to smuggle heroin into an L.A. County jail inside a greeting card.

Stephen Beecher, 61, who was arrested April 9, faces counts including conspiracy, bringing drugs into jail, transportation of a controlled substance and bringing a firearm into a jail, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

The Sherman Oaks resident was released on bail Thursday and scheduled to be arraigned May 1 in a downtown courtroom.

Prosecutors also charged Beecher's client Jesus Antonio Duenas, 20, who is in custody on an attempted murder case, with two counts of conspiracy. He has pleaded not guilty.

Jessica Paredes, 19, Duenas' girlfriend, also pleaded not guilty Wednesday to two criminal conspiracy counts.

If convicted, Beecher faces 11 years in state prison. Duenas and Paredes are facing nine years each in state prison.

In the criminal complaint, prosecutors allege Beecher told Duenas he would visit the North County Correctional Facility in Castaic on Dec. 28.

The drugs were intended for Duenas and for “the Southside,” a criminal enterprise within the L.A. County jail system that controls drugs and other illegal activity inside jails, prosecutors said.

Duenas' girlfriend “ironed and flattened” packages of heroin to fit inside a greeting card envelope and then gave Beecher the greeting card containing 36.09 grams of heroin, the complaint said.

The attorney was arrested on Dec. 28 in the visiting area of the North County jail with two packages of heroin worth more than $30,000, the complaint alleges.

Smuggling contraband into the jails can take many forms.

In January 2012, a former Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy was sentenced to two years in jail after authorities said he tried to smuggle heroin, stuffed inside a burrito, into a courthouse jail.

Henry Marin, who worked at the LAX courthouse and was once featured on a reality television show focusing on prospective sheriff's recruits, was caught in a sting set up by a sheriff's task force that aims to combat smuggling by corrupt deputies and other sheriff's employees who have helped fuel a lucrative drug trade behind bars.

Authorities said Marin accepted a bean-and-cheese burrito with 24 grams of black tar heroin for an inmate at the Los Angeles Airport courthouse, where Marin worked.

Marin later told investigators he intended to give the burrito to the inmate after checking the package and did not know there were drugs in it.

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andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

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