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Man accused of using drone to smuggle contraband into prison

A Texas prison

A Houston man was indicted on charges accusing him of trying to use a heavy-duty drone to drop a bag of forbidden items to inmates at a federal prison in Texas, authorities announced Tuesday.

Federal officials unsealed an indictment charging Davien Philip Turner with two counts of unlawfully flying an aircraft. Each count is punishable by up to three years in prison.

At a news conference in Beaumont, U.S. Attorney Britt Featherston said there was no evidence that Turner succeeded in delivering contraband with his drone, but there have been cases of such items being dropped from drones into the federal prison complex south of Beaumont.

Photos displayed during the news conference showed Turner is accused of trying to deliver wire cutters and other tools, as well as money, cellphones, cellphone chargers, and bulk amounts of tobacco.

This is the third federal case involving smuggling attempts by drones to be charged in the United States, and the first in Texas, Featherston said.

“Around the country, drones use in smuggling into prisons has been on the rise,” Featherston said.

A multi-agency investigation of the use of drones to deliver contraband to prisons continues, he said.

The Biden administration has called on Congress to expand authority for federal and local governments to take action to counter these and other nefarious uses of drones, which are a growing security concern and nuisance.