Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

March 29, 2014

Three suspected in Pugsley heroin smuggling scheme

TRAVERSE CITY — Warrants are out for three people accused of trying to smuggle heroin into the Pugsley Correctional Facility in Kingsley.

Prison staff found a packet of heroin tucked inside a letter sent to an inmate from a Detroit address in January 2013, according to an incident report from the Michigan Department of State Police.

Investigators got a tip from inspectors at another prison about inmates receiving heroin from Detroit in a similar manner. They were able to tie the phone number of Jackson resident Michael Overton, 50, then a parolee, to the letters, according to the report.

Officials tracked calls to Overton’s number and discovered two inmates who regularly contacted him: Willie Robert Sanford, 48, of Muskegon and Eric Maurice Butler, 43, of Newberry. The two called him a combined 28 times in November and December 2012, sometimes with both of them on the line.

Butler was already under investigation for heroin possession, according to the report.

Investigators listened to the calls and determined the three were discussing heroin in code, according to the report. The three used phrases like “situation” to refer to the mail containing heroin, “going up top” to refer to being questioned at the prison’s front office, and “put it in the air” to refer to when Overton sends the mail, according to the report.

Prison officials intercepted letters containing heroin on the same days Overton told the others to expect a delivery, according to the report. A lab analysis of the letters found Overton’s fingerprints on them, according to the report.

Warrants are out for all three men. Butler and Sanford could face charges of conspiracy to deliver narcotics, and Overton could face delivery of a controlled substance and conspiracy. Both charges carry up to 20 years in jail.

Pugsley officials did not return requests for comment by deadline Friday.

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