Benton County correctional officer smuggled drugs, phones into jail

Benton County

KENNEWICK, Wash. — Tri-Cities resident Eric Christian, 34, was sentenced to roughly four years in federal prison for smuggling illegal contraband into the Benton County Jail while serving as a Correctional Officer in 2020.

According to the Office of the U.S. Attorney for Eastern Washington, Vanessa Waldref, Christian was one of six co-defendants in the plot that introduced cell phones, methamphetamine, heroin, suboxone strips and other restricted items into the Jail.

He pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Provide Prohibited Objects to an Inmate of a Prison in December 2021. Upon his release, the former Benton County Correctional Officer will spend three more years under federal supervision following a 46-month term.

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Court documents suggest that the duration of the defendant’s role in the operation lasted four months from January to April of 2021. During this time, he profited off the smuggling operation, but also enabled coconspirators to share pertinent information.

Waldref’s Office described Christian as having “provided access to dangerous offenders and gang members so that they could identify, assault, and retaliate against cooperating defendants as well as inmates charged with certain types of offenses.”

The sentencing Judge, Stanley A. Bastian, condemned Christian for ignoring his oath of duty and empowering violence against the inmates who he was assigned to protect. Benton County Sheriff Tom Croskrey also offered the following comments:

“We maintain a high level of expectations of those in law enforcement,” Sheriff Croskrey said. “When these standards are compromised and criminal conduct occurs, we will hold these individuals accountable.”

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