Officers at the Southern New Mexico Corrections Facility made the largest drug bust in the history of the prison. They told ABC-7 an employee was trying to smuggle drugs to an inmate she is romantically involved with.
Officers said Candace Holmes, 20, an employee contracted through the food services company Aramark, referred to the inmate, Frank Morales, Jr., 31, as her fiance. Morales is incarcerated on charges of drug trafficking.
Officers from the Las Cruces Police Department and the Las Cruces Metro Narcotics unit arrested Holmes Tuesday afternoon.
They said they were tipped off by a confidential source that Holmes was having an inappropriate relationship. Then they started watching her.
"The security threat intelligence unit surveyed the employee for a period of two weeks before she attempted to bring in the drugs. They followed her movement in the city and listened to phone calls and gathered intelligence," prison warden Steve Nance told ABC-7.
By monitoring phone calls, officers heard several conversations between Holmes and Morales that referenced her getting drugs for him.
"We just walked around the mall, but I couldn't find you any specific jewelry that were under a certain amount. I didn't think you would like them so I will look again tomorrow," Holmes said to Morales in one phone call.
Officers said the word 'jewelry' is a code for drugs. They said they do not know how long the two were romantically involved or if they knew each other before Morales was incarcerated in Nov. 2011.
Last Friday, officials said Holmes allegedly tried to smuggle in a six-inch balloon full of drugs that she had hidden inside a body cavity. They said they knew she was trying to smuggle drugs in, but without a search warrant they could not do anything about it. However, she turned the drugs in after they confronted her about it.
Officers said the balloon was filled with 26 grams of cocaine and 46 grams of heroin, an amount worth between $12,000 and $15,000 in the prison. Nance said it's a much larger amount than they usually see.
"Normally it's much smaller balloons. A balloon can easily fit in the palm of your hand and be hidden maybe in the mouth or other cavities or that sort of thing. So it's certainly under very few ounces at the most," Nance said.
Holmes is charged with six felony counts: trafficking cocaine by possessing it with the intent to distribute; trafficking heroin by possessing it with the intent to distribute; conspiracy to traffic cocaine; conspiracy to traffic heroin; and two counts of bringing contraband into a prison facility. She is being held at the Dona Ana County Detention Center on a $50,000 cash bond.
Nance said Morales will likely face charges as well depending on how involved he was in the crime. He said it's evidence like the recorded phone calls that is helping them make arrests and keep the prison safe.
"I love you. Make sure you keep all my jewelry in the jewelry box, you know what I mean?" Morales said to Holmes in a phone call.
Officers told ABC-7 Morales will probably be moved to maximum security while they decide on disciplinary action and additional charges against him.