SMITHVILLE, Texas — A Texas man has been federally charged for allegedly flying a drone loaded with drugs and other contraband into a Fort Worth prison, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Chad E. Meacham announced Friday.
Bryant LeRay Henderson, 42, of Smithville, was arrested at his home Thursday and charged with one count of attempting to provide contraband in prison, one count of serving as an airman without an airman’s certificate, and one county of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, officials say.
According to court documents, Henderson is accused of flying a DJI Inspire drone into the airspace over Federal Medical Center (FMC) Fort Worth, a federal correctional facility in the south part of the city, just before midnight on Wednesday, May 4. The drone reportedly crashed inside a secure fenced-in yard near the prison’s HVAC shop, where prison staff recovered it.
Court documents say, the drone was loaded with 46 grams of crystal methamphetamine, 87 grams of pressed THC, two prepaid smartphones and nine mp3 players.
After the drone was found, law enforcement pulled surveillance video from a nearby high school, which showed a man drive into a parking lot in a red Chevy Tahoe with a Transformers decal on the rear window. In the video, the man removed a drone and a package from the vehicle, then launched the drone toward the prison before driving away from the scene.
Officials said two weeks later, the SUV was found abandoned in a travel lane with its flashers on and its hood up. It was impounded and later searched.
Inside the vehicle, law enforcement found Henderson’s debit card, a DJI drone controller, various drone accessories, 18 smartphones, tobacco products, and vacuum-packed containers with steroid labels connected to a fishing line and a key ring.
When law enforcement powered on the controller and the drone recovered from the prison yard, both devices immediately paired, officials said.
Investigators also recovered the flight log, which included four flights that intruded FMC Fort Worth’s airspace, and two flights over FCI Seagoville.
Officials said Henderson’s cellphone records also pinpointed his location near FMC Fort Worth around the same time as the crash on May 4, and the other flights.
If convicted, Henderson faces up to 45 years in prison.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons and state corrections officials say that drone deliveries are increasingly becoming a problem. Just last month, a 44-year-old Houston man was charged in the Eastern District of Texas for allegedly operating a drone over FCI Beaumont.
“Contraband drone deliveries are quickly becoming the bane of prison officials’ existence. Illicit goods pose a threat to guards and inmates alike – and when it comes to cell phones, the threat often extends outside prison walls. We are determined to stop this trend in its tracks,” said Meacham.