Four inmates are on the lam after escaping a federal prison in Virginia sometime late Friday or early Saturday, officials said.
The fugitives include a fentanyl dealer, a cocaine dealer, and a heroin dealer, and another man convicted of federal firearms offenses. They were reported missing from the Federal Correctional Complex Petersburg’s satellite camp in Hopewell at 1:45 a.m.
“The United States Marshals Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other law enforcement agencies were notified,” prison officials said in a statement. “An internal investigation was initiated.”
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The escaped convicts were identified as Corey Branch, Tavares Lajuane Graham, Lamonte Rashawn Willis, and Kareem Allen Shaw. Authorities did not provide details as to how they escaped or if it was coordinated, but the facility is a minimum security prison and one source told reporters they “walked away.” The prison houses 185 inmates.
Branch, 41, was serving 13 years for possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Graham, 44, was serving 10 years for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Willis, 30, was serving a more than 18-year term on federal gun charges Shaw, 46, was serving a 16-year sentence for heroin trafficking.
The Bureau of Prisons has been criticized in recent years for allegedly lax security at federal prison camps nationwide, where doors are typically left unlocked.
A memo issued last year by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz said “multiple” escape investigations have found unlocked doors, malfunctioning alarms, a lack of surveillance cameras, and inmate treachery straight out of the movies.
“We were told that inmates sometimes place dummies in their beds or physically place themselves in other inmate beds during inmate counts,” the report stated. “We found that unsecured doors allow inmates to move freely within the (camps) even when they were not permitted to do so and, thus, make it easier for them to both pose as other inmates during counts and escape.”
Hopewell is 23 miles south of Virginia’s capital, Richmond.