Attorney General Shapiro Announces Charges against Seven Lackawanna County Prison Guards after Year-long Investigation into Institutional Sexual Assaults at Prison

February 15, 2018 | Topic: Criminal

DUNMORE — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced felony criminal charges against seven current and former Lackawanna County Prison correctional officers who used their positions of authority to manipulate and dominate female inmates, perpetuating a persistent culture of sexual abuse and assault at the prison that continued for many years.

The charges address decade-long allegations of institutional sexual assaults of female inmates at the Lackawanna County Prison. Many of the victims hesitated to come forward for fear of reprisal.

“These women inmates were subjected to repeated sexual assaults by these prison guards in a persistent culture of abuse that extended for years at the prison,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said today at a news conference at the Dunmore barracks of the Pennsylvania State Police.  “These women literally had nowhere to turn for help, and they considered this horrendous behavior to be the ‘status quo’. Today, working with our agents and the Pennsylvania State Police, we’re putting a stop to it.”

Attorney General Shapiro discussed the findings of a Statewide Investigating Grand Jury which his prosecutors worked with on this case over the past 12 months:

  • One of the accused guards, coercing a female inmate to perform a sex act on him in her jail cell, until the lock on her cell door “clicked” – the clicking of the lock was a warning that someone was coming. The Grand Jury learned other guards in a control room had the ability to “click” the cell door locks remotely.
  • Another female inmate testified before the Grand Jury of being coerced into a Prison utility closet by another guard, where he had sex with the inmate and had her perform various sexual acts. This happened more than 10 times.
  • The guards had a tradition of having women inmates perform a certain sexual act in a certain location in the prison—this was so common place that the women had a slang phrase for it.
  • These guards promised the inmates they abused things like commissary items, food, cigarettes, or extra phone time – all to manipulate these women and force them to continue performing sexual acts.  

The following current and former prison guards are charged with various crimes, including institutional sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault and harassment.

John Shnipes
Jeffrey Staff
George Efthimiou
Mark Johnson
George McHale
Paul Voglino
James Walsh

All were taken into custody without incident yesterday by agents of the Attorney General and troopers with the Pennsylvania State Police.

“In the few instances that these allegations were reported to personnel at the Lackawanna County Prison, there is no evidence that any action was taken to help the female inmates who were being sexually assaulted by correctional officers,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “This is outrageous conduct by those placed in positions of power.”

Attorney General Shapiro credited the arrests to strong law enforcement collaboration with the Pennsylvania State Police and the effective use of a statewide investigating Grand Jury.

Attorney General Shapiro stressed the ongoing nature of this investigation.

“This investigation is ongoing, and we believe there may be other victims or witnesses who may not know how to come forward,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “You don’t have to be afraid. I’m asking you to call a Special Hotline we’ve set up to hear from you. If you have any information about this long-running culture of sexual assault in the Prison, call us at 570-846-4074. We’ve already heard from some people in positions of power in the county about this culture of abuse. Now, we want to hear from you.”

 “As Attorney General, I will not allow sexual abuse to take place at any correctional institution in our Commonwealth. To the women who have endured this horrendous abuse for many years, we hear you. Today, we’re putting a stop to it,” Attorney General Shapiro said.

# # #