Woman faces prison time for trafficking meds into prison

Brenda Hernandez

GOSHEN — An Elkhart woman admitted she smuggled an opioid treatment substance into prison with the help of a prison guard.

Brenda Hernandez, 35, appeared in Elkhart County Circuit Court Thursday and pleaded guilty to a Level 4 felony count of dealing a controlled substance.

Hernandez admitted she delivered 5 to 10 grams of Suboxone to a person, expecting the drug would be passed to someone else.

She was arrested Aug. 22 as part of a joint investigation by the county’s Intelligence and Covert Enforcement unit and the Indiana Department of Corrections into alleged drug smuggling at the Westville Correctional Facility in Westville.

During an interview with investigators, Hernandez said she had trafficked Suboxone strips into the prison for her brother with the aid of a corrections officer, the probable cause affidavit in the case shows. She said in the affidavit she would hand the Suboxone off to the officer in packaging intended to conceal the drug in a way it wouldn’t be detected or searched.

Hernandez told investigators she smuggled the strips in twice and was arranging to make another attempt with a different officer at the prison, the affidavit shows.

Investigators found 799 unopened 10-milligram packages of Suboxone in her car, plus another 812 empty packages of the medication in her home during searches, the affidavit shows.

Suboxone is prescription medication used to treat opioid addictions by combining a mild form of opioid with medicine that blocks its effects. The intent is to help wean patients off their addictions and ease withdrawal symptoms.

As part of her plea agreement, Hernandez faces a sentence that includes six years in prison, four years in a community corrections program and two years probation. A second count of driving with a suspended license was dismissed.

She also admitted violating her probation in a separate license suspension case. She’ll be given an unsatisfactory discharge from probation and Elkhart County Community Corrections in that case and in a third case as part of the plea agreement.

Judge Michael Christofeno accepted the plea and convicted Hernandez. He then scheduled Jan. 2 as the date for her to be sentenced.

PROBATION REVOKED

Several other hearings were held in Circuit Court Thursday.

Among them, April Trosper, 48, of Elkhart, was sent back to prison for violating her probation after testing positive for methamphetamine in court.

Trosper appeared for a hearing and admitted she violated probation by failing a drug screen in August.

Her attorney, Mark Doty, sought to move the sentencing portion of the hearing back to January so he could help Trosper get into one-on-one addiction therapy.

As Christofeno accepted the request, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Don Pitzer asked for Trosper to undergo another drug screen at the courthouse before any decisions were finalized. The hearing was recessed while the test was conducted.

Pitzer noted Trosper was in court on her third probation violation in the case. She was sentenced to six years in prison and six years probation in March 2012 after she pleaded guilty to dealing meth. Trosper was released from prison a year later to start probation, court and prison information show.

When Thursday’s hearing resumed, Christofeno said results of the new test showed Trosper tested positive for meth again.

“She’s basically a functioning addict,” Doty said, arguing again for a need for Trosper to go into individual addictions counseling.

Pitzer pushed for her to be taken into custody.

Trosper told the court she last used a week ago. When asked what caused the relapse, she said she underwent a surgical procedure a couple months ago, was prescribed painkillers, and described how she developed a craving for the pills.

“One pill stretches into two,” Trosper said.

When the prescription discontinued, she said she went back to what she knew.

After arguments were made, Christofeno decided to revoke Trosper’s probation and send her back to prison for the remainder of her original sentence. He also ordered her placed in a drug therapy program.

Trosper, who wasn’t in police custody at the time, was handcuffed and taken into custody after the hearing.

INITIAL HEARINGS

• Stephanie Dejong, 46, of Elkhart appeared in court for an initial hearing to face five charges: A Level 3 felony count of dealing methamphetamine, a Level 4 felony count of dealing cocaine, a Level 6 felony count of dealing marijuana and misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Dejong was arrested by Elkhart police after drugs were found during a search of her home Tuesday night, police said in a probable cause affidavit.

Christofeno entered a not-guilty plea on Dejong’s behalf and scheduled the case to go to trial beginning April 20.

Dejong was represented by a private attorney at the hearing.

• Trevor Johnson, 27, of Elkhart appeared in court for an initial hearing to face a Level 6 felony count of resisting arrest and a misdemeanor count of driving without a license.

Johnson was arrested by Goshen police following a pursuit in Goshen early Monday morning.

Christofeno entered a not-guilty plea on Johnson’s behalf and appointed a public defender to the case. He then scheduled the case to go to trial beginning April 20.

Aimee Ambrose can be reached at aimee.ambrose@goshennews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 316. Follow her on Twitter at @aambrose_TGN.

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