Mission man linked to prison contraband scheme gets 18 months

McALLEN — A Mission man who conspired with his brother in-law to bribe a correctional officer to sneak contraband into prison was sentenced for his role in the scheme, court notes show.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Armando Tabares to 18 months in federal prison for his role in the conspiracy involving his brother in-law, Jose Tomas Castillo-Garza, and a correctional officer who worked at the Great Plains Correctional Facility. Castillo-Garza was serving 50 months at the facility in connection with an immigration charge, court records show.

Tabares, 31, pleaded guilty in June to one wire fraud charge for helping coordinate wire payments to the correctional officer, Charles Daniel Lynn, who worked at the Great Plains facility.

The scheme, which began in the fall of 2016, was initiated by Castillo-Garza, 41, who approached Lynn with a proposition: help sneak in contraband for Castillo-Garza and other inmates in exchange for money, the indictment filed against Tabares states.

“In approximately the summer or early fall 2016, Castillo-Garza approached Lynn and asked if Lynn would be willing to bring one or more cellphones into Great Plains,” the court record states.

A short while later, in September or October of that year, Lynn and Tabares discussed the logistics of bringing cellphones into the facility.

“On Oct. 12, 2016, Lynn called Tabares and asked about Castillo-Garza. Continuing into October 2016, Lynn and Tabares communicated by phone to coordinate the shipment of cellphones and other contraband from Tabares to Lynn and the wiring of payment from Tabares to Lynn,” the indictment states.

During those conversations, Lynn, who hails from El Reno, Oklahoma, instructed Tabares on using money wire transfers, specifically through MoneyGram, the court records show.

Along with money wire transfers from Tabares to Lynn, government prosecutors also documented money wire transfers from at least two other inmates who Castillo-Garza involved in the scheme.

Tabares, between Oct. 12 and Dec. 31, 2016, purchased four “touchscreen” cellphones, two flip phones, and four “music players” at a McAllen Walmart, documents show.

During that same time span, Tabares used U.S. mail to send as many as nine packages containing contraband to Lynn.

According to the indictment, Tabares paid Lynn a total of $4,000 related to three different occasions — Nov. 22, 2016, when he sent Lynn a MoneyGram of $1,500; $1,000 on Dec. 16, 2016; and another $1,500 on Dec. 20, 2016.

Lynn also received $3,750 from at least two other inmates, recruited by Castillo-Garza, between October and December of that year.

Castillo-Garza pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge in connection with this indictment in November 2017, and was subsequently sentenced in April to two years in prison for his role in the scheme, court records show.

Lynn, 34, who worked at the facility for less than two years, was terminated in February 2017 when he stopped showing up for work, according to court records.

The El Reno man pleaded guilty to bribery, and conspiracy to defraud through bribery charges in November 2017, court notes show.

He was sentenced earlier this year, in May, to 15 months in prison.

Lynn is currently serving his prison sentence in Florence, Colorado, at a medium-security facility, and is expected to be released in June 2019, according to the Bureau of Prisons website.

Tabares, who will also be required to serve an additional three years of supervised release upon completion of this prison sentence, will self-surrender on Oct. 26, court notes show.