[PHOTO CREDIT: Lake County Sheriff’s Office]
[Original Publish Date: 03/26/21]
CLERMONT, Florida — A maintenance worker at Florida Department of Corrections’ Lake Correctional Institute has been accused of smuggling cellular phones and cigarettes into the prison for an inmate and pocketing around $20,000 for the contraband.
On Oct. 9, a search of a cell that housed two inmates, including Leonard Smith revealed a cellular phone, charger and tobacco products in an air vent. The phone was recovered and processed by the Florida Department of Corrections/Office of the Inspector General, according to an arrest affidavit, and on Tuesday, a senior inspector received information from the forensic search of the phone.
The investigation found the phone primarily belonged to Smith and he was using it to communicate with a phone number later identified as belonging to Eli Lee Colorado, 56, a maintenance worker at LCI. Smith is on the same work detail as Colorado, the affidavit states. The messages included a July 17 discussion about another inmate.
“Mac went to ICT Thursday they put him out the gate for the plumbing out there Mac is the one that does the plumbing in here.” (ICT is the state prison term for Institutional Classification Team, one purpose of this team is for staff members to request inmates to be assigned to job assignments.)
According to DOC records, Colorado, of Lakeland, requested inmate Robert McGinness be reviewed for a “gate pass,” which would give him the ability to work outside the prison gates, the affidavit states.
The inspector interviewed Colorado on Wednesday and when shown a photo of Smith, Colorado said Smith works with him; the inspector asked if Colorado had ever received money from Smith and Colorado refused to answer any more questions until he consulted with an attorney.
Smith was interviewed by authorities and he said he was assigned to work with Colorado in mid-2020 and he learned Colorado was having financial problems. Smith told Colorado he could make extra money by smuggling cigarettes into the prison for him; according to Smith, Colorado agreed and began bringing in cigarettes at $50 per pack. Upon receiving the cigarettes, Smith would send Colorado $500 to $800 through CashApp and Smith estimated they conducted between 30 and 50 transactions for six to eight months until the phone was discovered in Smith’ cell.
Smith said he also purchased approximately five cellular phones for $100 each and spent around $20,000 total on the contraband. Smith also identified “Mac” as Robert McGinness. Following the interview with Smith, a warrant was issued for Colorado’s arrest and he was picked up at LCI by a Lake County Sheriff’s deputy early Friday morning.
Colorado was arrested for bribery, two counts of smuggling contraband into a prison and unlawful use of a two-way communication device. He was released from the Lake County Jail on $17,000 bond.
Our Editor-in-Chief, Marilyn M. Aciego, began writing for Lake Legal News in 2010. Born and raised in Lake County, she is a graduate of Umatilla High School and Lake-Sumter State College. She started her journalism career at LSSC, where she was editor of both student publications, The Angler and The Odyssey. Her professional career began at the Daily Commercial in 2004 where she covered cops and courts the majority of her time there until she left in 2009. Currently, along with being Editor-in-Chief of Lake Legal News, she is the Florida bureau chief for an international media organization. She has made more than two dozen appearances on live national television, including Nancy Grace and the Greta Van Susteren show, along with her appearance on Evil Twins. Contact her with breaking news, tips, and feedback by sending an e-mail to 352Tips@gmail.com. You can also contact us on our Facebook page — and make sure you “Like” and “Follow us” there. [PHOTO CREDIT: Bonnie Whicher]