How Prisoners Set Up Drone Smuggling Operations

By Seth Ferranti 08/15/16

The Fix goes behind the scenes with an exclusive insider's account of a prison drone-smuggling operation.

How Prisoners Set-Up Drone Smuggling Operations

These days, smuggling drugs into prison via drones is all the rage—it's becoming not only a national, but an international, problem. The issue has been in the news so much in the past few years that authorities are looking for any and all ways to combat the crisis. But with a plethora of prisoners entering and re-entering prison regularly, the prison gangs have established different modus operandi for maintaining the flow of drugs via drones. But how do they set up these smuggling operations from prison?

“I got my first glimpse or knowledge of a drone prison drug smuggling operation when my friend in the South Carolina state system we’ll call Brand enlightened me,” Monty, an ex-offender who has turned his life around, tells The Fix. “I did time with Brand way back in FCI Manchester in the '90s, when we were both young kids just entering the netherworld of corruption and violence. While I was stuck in the system on repeat violations due to my heroin use, Brand was in and out of correctional facilities as he battled a brutal meth addiction. He eventually ended up getting a life sentence under the three strikes in South Carolina for a variety of drug-related crimes.”

Upon Monty’s release last year, he was contacted by Brand on a cellphone from prison. He told Monty that he was now a general in the South Carolina Aryan Brotherhood, and that he needed his old comrade's help. He wanted Monty to help him set up a drone-smuggling operation for his gang. Monty rebuked him immediately and told him he was crazy to ask him, since he’d just gotten out of prison himself. Monty blocked the number and thought that was the end of it. But Brand set up a fake Facebook account and used it to contact Monty again:

"I've got to tell you that I've just had some really bad things happen. I lost my phone. I've got an opportunity to make some moves to make some money. Need to borrow some money from you to buy a phone with so I can make a very important move. My word and my honor is loyalty. I need to borrow $1,500 and I will give you every penny of it back in 60 days. I've never asked you to extend yourself like this before, and I want you to know that the reason I'm asking you now is because this is so immensely important. But I need $1,500 as soon as humanly possible, to profit from a move I can make now. I've got a few weeks to make it happen, so please take this consideration to heart, brother, and know my love and respect for you will not allow me to dishonor our decades-old friendship. I will return the money and I will owe you a favor that I will return at all costs."

“But there was no way I was giving him that kind of money, even if I had it, which I didn’t,” Monty tells The Fix. “He would have to turn elsewhere for the money to buy a drone, because I wasn’t giving it to him. But he went ahead with his machinations and succeeded in his plot, to a degree. But then disaster struck. At 1:44 a.m. on April 22nd, security cameras at the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, South Carolina, captured the images of a drone flying over the fence and into the prison. The gig was up.”

Correctional officers found the drone, which had crashed right outside the prison, along with a package with a cellphone, tobacco and drugs. Monty’s buddy called again, asking for money, telling him how his drone crashed and he needed to get his business back up and running. “I told him that he was dead and to never call me again,” Monty tells The Fix. “I blocked the number he called me from and refused to answer any other numbers that were from that 864 area code he always called from.”

Monty resisted the urge to get involved with a criminal endeavor again, but imagine how many ex-cons or prisoners or even their family members get involved in operations like this?

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.