12 arrested and 1 on the loose after Albany County Jail contraband investigation

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A press conference was held earlier Sunday after Albany County Jail was placed on lockdown Saturday.

The Sheriff’s Office is still looking for one person involved in a contraband operation at the Correctional Facility.

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple says they do contraband searches constantly and have a no cell phone policy. Apple says as of this morning, that anyone caught with a cell phone will be fired immediately, and that the jail will be doing more detailed searches on visitors and employees entering the building.

Sheriff Apple says that the suspect they are looking for is Raheem Hines, who was acquitted of robbing an Albany woman at knifepoint in 2013 and has two prior felony charges.

12 individuals have been arrested in connection with a three-month long investigation revealing that contraband was being brought in through the jail.

Sheriff Apple says they know the contraband was at least going on for about 90 days, and that it was coming in through one of the jail’s officers.

Through hours of surveillance video, they determined 48-year-old Merlin Thomas Jr. from Albany; an 18-year jail employee was meeting friends and relatives of inmates on the outside.

Thomas would collect two-hundred dollars in cash and take packages containing tobacco, marijuana, controlled substances, and cell phones into the facility.

Based on recorded phone calls, Apple says they knew Thomas would be smuggling contraband Saturday morning, and they arrested him quarter to seven, just before his shift.

“He jeopardized the life of every single employee and every single inmate in that facility for that matter,” Apple said.

He’s being charged with four misdemeanors and six felonies.

Thomas was arraigned this morning and released on 50-thousand dollars bail.

“In public safety you expect your employees to be trustworthy, honest and have integrity. If one of them loses that then they’re not welcome here and they will be prosecuted,” Sheriff Craig Apple said.

Sheriff Apple also confirmed with us that five outsiders, not including the one still on the loose were all arraigned this morning, and three were released on bail.

Six inmates involved will be arraigned Monday night at 6 p.m. at Colonie Town Court.


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