Pineville woman tries to use drone to deliver drugs to prison, warrant says

PINEVILLE, N.C. — High-tech drone smuggling continues to pose a massive security threat for prison officials across the nation.

A Pineville woman is being investigated on suspicion that she coordinated a drone drop outside a prison in Virginia.

Reporter Genevieve Curtis got her hands on a search warrant showing investigators' path from Virginia all the way to the woman's home in Pineville.

[ALSO READ: Federal bills would let state prisons jam cellphone signals]

Security experts told Channel 9, the use of the technology for prison deliveries and other illegal activities is becoming a bigger problem.

“They’re using those phones to conduct unlawful business on the outside,” said security expert Walter Kimble.

These days sneaking a cellphone into prison, may be just a drone delivery drop away.

A search warrant said the woman attempted to do just that for her husband behind prison fences.

Virginia state troopers found a drone on the side of a road near Buckingham Correctional Center, between Lynchburg and Richmond.

Troopers noted it was warm and had been flown recently.  Attached to the drone, was a package wrapped in camouflaged duct tape with marijuana, cocaine and a cellphone inside.

The drone's own GPS data contains flight details, which showed it was flown before at an apartment complex off Willow Ridge Road in Pineville.

[Sheriff: SC inmate with 10 cellphone violations planned revenge killing]

Troopers were able to determine the drone was sold on eBay and the seller shipped it to the same address.

Pineville police searched the apartment Thursday and found 19 cellphones, but did not make any arrests.

State police officials in Virginia told Channel 9 the investigation is ongoing and charges are pending.

“Unfortunately, as the drones become more sophisticated you are going to see a greater levels of the risk of contraband coming into a prison system,” said Kimble.

Kimble said prison officials nationwide see drones dropping contraband. The drones sometimes carry tools to break out or they're being used as distractions.

“It takes the guards away from their primary function and during that period an escape attempt or uprising could be perpetrated,” said Kimble.

[ALSO READ: SC to spend millions on netting outside prisons to curb smuggling]

Kimble said some companies are now working to help prison staff detect drones and others are developing methods to take down weaponized drones.

Channel 9 has extensively reported on prisoners committing crimes behind bars for years using contraband cellphones.

South Carolina's Department of Corrections has been fighting this for years.

It is now using cellphone detection towers, body scanners and nets to stop people from tossing phones over prison fences.