A Nesquehoning father and son pleaded guilty in Carbon County court on Monday to their part in the smuggling of illegal drugs into the county prison by using inmates' mail.
Kemit Sponheimer, 60, and his son, Kory J. Sponheimer, 24, of 151 W. Columbus Ave., were scheduled to select juries to hear their cases but instead entered into plea bargains and pleaded guilty.
Kermit Sponheimer pleaded to one count of criminal attempt-contraband, while his son pleaded to one count of criminal use of a communication facility.
The two were among 11 persons arrested in March 2011 for smuggling the drug Suboxone into the prison via the mail. District Attorney Gary F. Dobias called the arrests part of "Operation Postage Stamp."
The warden of the prison, Joseph Gross, intercepted three letters containing Suboxone underneath the letters' stamps.
Suboxone is a drug used to treat heroin addiction and is commonly produced in pill form. It is now being manufactured in thin, filmlike strips, very similar to the popular breath freshening strips. The strip is placed under the stamp.
Assistant District Attorney Jean A. Engler told President Judge Roger N. Nanovic II that Gross notified the DA's office of what he found. In turn, the state attorney general's office was notified and it began an investigation.
Using wire taps, the AG's office was able to gather the evidence of the operation and the name of suspects.
Engler said the elder Sponheimer and his son had phone conversations in which the arrangement was made to send the drug into the prison via the mail.
She said there were 37 phone conversations monitored and 32 of them pertained to drug activity.
Sponheimer told Nanovic, "My foolishness has hurt my family more than me."
In the plea agreement, Sponheimer faces a prison term of two to five years.
The younger Sponheimer faces a minimum sentence of between probation to nine months in jail.
Nanovic accepted both pleas but deferred sentencing and ordered the adult probation office prepare a presentence investigation (PSI) on each defendant.
The elder Sponheimer is currently in the county prison on the drug counts and facing probation violation. His son is free on bail.