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Elkhart County Jail officer Aaron Vandekeere accused of smuggling cell phone, cigarettes

Court documents allege the former Elkhart County Jail corrections officer offered to smuggle “anything needed” to inmates.

Posted on May 14, 2014 at 12:27 p.m.

GOSHEN — A corrections officer smuggled a cell phone and cigarettes to an Elkhart County Jail inmate in exchange for $1,100, according to court documents.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed on May 8 in Elkhart Superior Court 2, an inmate at the jail approached corrections investigators on April 4, 2014, and said he had information about someone smuggling contraband to inmates.

The informant, who had provided “credible and corroborated” information regarding contraband to investigators in July 2013, said officer Aaron Vandekeere, 22, had approached him and offered to smuggle cigarettes, lighters and cell phones into the jail for him.

Vandekeere said he could smuggle two packs of cigarettes for $100, a lighter for $100 and a cell phone for $1,000.

The inmate requested another meeting with investigators on April 9 and said Vandekeere was still offering to bring him anything he needed. The investigators gave the inmate a handwritten note with the name and number of an undercover officer with the Elkhart County Interdiction and Covert Enforcement (ICE) Unit as a contact outside the jail.

On April 17, Vandekeere sent a text message to the undercover officer. Through text messages, Vandekeere arranged to meet the officer the next day. He told the officer he would be in a vehicle with a sheriff’s license plate and wearing a beanie, black sweatshirt and aviator sunglasses.

Vandekeere and the officer met at 11 a.m. April 18 at the 7-Eleven gas station at C.R. 24 and Nappanee Street. The officer gave Vandekeere two packs of Marlboro Lights cigarettes and $100 cash in previously photocopied ICE funds, according to the affidavit.

Two jail investigators and two undercover officers also watched the exchange.

The inmate contacted investigators around 6 p.m. the same day and gave them a package containing 20 Marlboro Lights cigarettes, which he said were given to him by Vandekeere. This was only one of the packs Vandekeere was supposed to deliver. 

On April 21, investigators interviewed the inmate about the delivery of the cigarettes and he said Vandekeere had approached him as he finished kitchen duty. The inmate followed Vandekeere to an area which was a known blind spot in the jail’s surveillance system and was given the cigarettes wrapped in a napkin, which he placed in the waistband of his inmate uniform.

Vandekeere contacted the undercover officer at 12:24 a.m. April 24 to arrange another meeting to smuggle a cell phone into the jail for $1,000.

They met at 11 a.m. the same day at the gas station where they had conducted the previous transaction. The undercover officer had purchased a Samsung Verizon cell phone with a $25 pre-paid plan and had photographed the phone’s serial and manufacturing numbers.

The officer gave Vandekeere the phone, $1,000 and a handwritten note with the phone’s information. Vandekeere told the officer the phone’s charger wasn’t necessary because inmates had their own means to charge cell phones in the jail, according to the affidavit.

On April 25, investigators interviewed the inmate again. He told them he met Vandekeere in a linen closet in the medical ward during the dinner pass the previous evening, where Vandekeere gave him the phone and note.

Vandekeere was arrested and fired on April 25, according to the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s office. He had been employed at the jail since Feb. 25, 2013.

He is charged with trafficking with an inmate, a Class C felony, and trafficking with an inmate as a Class A misdemeanor. The maximum sentence for a Class C felony is eight years in prison. The maximum sentence for a Class A misdemeanor is a year in prison.

PC Affidavit Aaron Vandekeere by Krystal Vivian

 




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