LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) - A New Mexico prison inmate thought he was being sneaky having phone conversations about shirt colors and cutting the grass that corrections officials say was really code for trying to get drugs into prison. Now one man that was free is locked up.
New Mexico Corrections Department officers listened to the phone conversations of three people for about a week in June.
In the recordings, a man and woman were heard getting orders from an inmate who apparently was not ready to give up his criminal ways.
"Our agents have to stay one step ahead of this at all times and they really have done a fabulous job of that," said Alex Tomlin, a spokeswoman for the New Mexico Corrections Department.
The recent incident that tested officers happened at the Central New Mexico Corrections Facility in Los Lunas, involving a man named Reynaldo Vargas. Vargas is an inmate there doing time for drug possession, assault, escape and trafficking charges.
Now, Vargas is accused of trying to get his friends to sneak drugs in through a letter. Corrections officers discovered it while sweeping the mail with a drug detecting K9 which picked up on the scent of a drug called "Suboxone."
"Suboxone is unique because it is not illegal out in the free world, it's a prescription you can go get," said Tomlin.
But in prison, Suboxone is illegal. The drug mimics the effects of heroin and typically used to help wean people off of narcotic addiction.
Once corrections officers found the drug, they looked into how the inmates tried to get it in.
"They went back and listened to some phone messages, they did some investigative work, they called in state police," said Tomlin.
In a criminal complaint filed by New Mexico State Police, corrections officials said Vargas spoke to a woman on the phone several times using coded language.
In one conversation with the woman, Vargas said "so tell Fat (expletive) to double that up." Corrections investigators say Vargas was referring to another man, Christopher Marquez, saying that he should cut the drug into strips.
In another message, Vargas asked the woman "what color was the first one?" Corrections investigators believe he was asking about the color of drugs that were sent in the mail. In the same conversation, Vargas asked if the color was "like his t-shirt."
"It's very coded, there are different ways of going about it, there's "I like the color of your t shirt" and the color coordinates to the drug that they want," said Tomlin.
Investigators tracked the drugs down to Christopher Marquez, who was arrested this week. Marquez faced a judge Saturday for his first appearance in Metropolitan Court. Corrections officials hope his arrest sends a strong message.
"If you're going to send something in to our facility, we're going to make sure you're criminal charged and you could end up in that same facility where you were trying to smuggle contraband," said Tomlin.
Marquez is charged with distributing Suboxone, bringing contraband into a prison and conspiracy. Corrections officers are still investigating charges against Vargas.
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