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CASE UPDATE: Eighth Lackawanna County Prison Employee Charged with Sexual Assault

April 3, 2019 | Topic: Criminal

Lackawanna County Prison Counselor Samantha Heinrich Abused Her Authority, Engaged in Sexual Acts with Inmates

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced that an eighth Lackawanna County Prison employee was charged for her role in perpetuating a culture of sexual abuse within the prison. Samantha Heinrich, 36, of Sweet Valley, was today charged with Institutional Sexual Assault. Heinrich, a counselor at the prison, is accused of abusing her authority, propositioning inmates, and engaging in sexual acts with them. The charges stem from recommendations made by a Statewide Investigating Grand Jury.

The defendant began working as a counselor at Lackawanna County Prison in 2012. As a liaison between inmates and outside agencies and individuals, Heinrich had daily contact with inmates. She is accused of engaging in sexual contact with two male inmates and distributing an inappropriate photo of herself to an inmate.

“My Office is continuing to hold employees of the Lackawanna County Prison accountable for using their positions of authority in the prison to abuse inmates,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “These charges today show that this investigation is still ongoing and that there may be other victims or witnesses. I’m asking anyone with information about abuse at the prison to call our Special Hotline at 570-846-4074. We want to hear from you.”

Heinrich was assigned as the counselor for one of the victims while he was an inmate at the prison. She reportedly began making sexual comments to him as soon as they met and they began exchanging sexually explicit notes. The defendant would often make excuses for the two to be alone nearly every day, at which time they would engage in sexual contact.

The defendant later began a sexual relationship with another inmate to whom she was not assigned. The inmate reported feeling like she was stalking him because she always appeared wherever he was, despite not being assigned to his block. Heinrich reportedly showed the inmate photos of herself in various stages of undress and gave him one photo to keep. The two engaged in sexual contact on multiple occasions. Heinrich would reportedly bring the inmate food and, on one occasion, alcohol.

The prison was notified of Heinrich’s conduct and conducted an investigation. During the course of the investigation, an anonymous letter was sent alleging that Heinrich was engaging in inappropriate conduct and attached a photograph. A search of Heinrich’s office computer revealed inappropriate photos of her in various stages of undress.

In February 2018, Attorney General Shapiro announced charges against seven Lackawanna County prison guards after a year-long investigation into institutional sexual assaults at the prison. Heinrich is the eighth person charged in relation to this investigation. Earlier this year, former prison guards Jeffrey Staff and George Efthimious pled to Official Oppression for their roles.

The complaint was filed before Magisterial District Judge Paul Ware in Lackawanna County. Bail was set at $25,000 unsecured bond. The case is being prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General Rebecca Elo.

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