Only one of the 11 Carbon defendants involved in what the state Attorney General's Office dubbed "Operation Postage Stamp" opted for a hearing yesterday morning.

The other 10 waived their charges to Carbon County Court.

The cases involve allegations of illegal drugs smuggled into the Carbon County Correctional Facility under postage stamps.

Ten hearings were scheduled to be held before District Judge Edward Lewis yesterday morning.

Five of the defendants were inmates who allegedly received drugs from outside the prison by having them pasted onto the bottom of postage stamps.

The other five defendants were accused of sending the envelopes containing the tainted stamps to the prison.

Only Kermit Sponheimer, 59, an inmate at the prison, opted for the hearing.

Sponheimer is charged with criminal attempt to possess controlled substance contraband by prisoner, criminal use of a communication facility, criminal conspiracy to possess controlled substance contraband by prisoner, criminal attempt to commit unlawful possession of controlled substance, and criminal solicitation to commit contraband to confined persons.

The defendants in the case who waived their hearings are:

Ÿ Kory Sponheimer, 23, of Nesquehoning, the son of Kermit: Furnishing controlled substance contraband to confined persons, criminal conspiracy to furnish controlled substance contraband to confined persons, and criminal use of a communication facility.

Ÿ Chad Hartsell, 29, an inmate: Same charges as Kermit Sponheimer.

Ÿ Daniel Thorpe, 25, an inmate: Same charges as Kermit Sponheimer and Hartsell.

Ÿ Michael Kent, 25, an inmate: Criminal attempt to possess controlled substance contraband by prisoner, criminal use of a communication facility, and criminal conspiracy to furnish controlled substance contraband by prisoner.

Ÿ Kristen Gemmel, 26, of Palmerton: Furnishing controlled substance contraband to confined persons, criminal conspiracy to furnish controlled substance contraband to confined persons, and criminal use of a communication facility.

Ÿ Kaitlyn Hill, 22, of Lehighton: Criminal attempt to commit controlled substance contraband to confined persons, criminal conspiracy to commit controlled substance contraband to confined persons, and criminal use of a communication facility.

Ÿ Georgetta Perez, 49, of Nesquehoning: Furnishing controlled substance contraband to confined persons, criminal conspiracy to furnish controlled substance contraband to confined persons, and criminal use of a communication facility.

Ÿ James Dennis, 25, an inmate: Possession of a controlled substance contraband by prisoner, criminal use of a communication facility, and criminal conspiracy to possess controlled substance contraband by prisoner.

Ÿ Michael Dennis, 24, of Lehighton: Criminal attempt to furnish controlled substance contraband to confined persons, criminal conspiracy to commit controlled substance contraband to confined persons, and criminal use of a communication facility.

Ÿ Kristin Tyahla, 22, of Lehighton: Furnishing controlled substance contraband to confined persons, criminal conspiracy to furnish controlled substance contraband to confined persons, criminal use of a communication facility.

Incident details

discussed at hearing

During the hearing for Kermit Sponheimer, testimony was received from prison Warden Joseph G. Gross and a representative of the Pa. State Attorney General's Office, Agent Charles Horvath.

Gross said he was informed in either December or January that drugs were being smuggled to a resident in the prison. As a result, he confiscated all the mail from all inmates.

He said at the time there were about 150 inmates in the jail.

About four or five days passed before Gross located the first envelope with a controlled substance, Soboxone, located under a stamp.

The warden said he continued monitoring the mail until the attorney general's office completed its investigation.

Gross said as a rule, "We do not read any correspondence (to inmates) unless we have some security issue to deal with."

Horvath said he was contacted by Carbon County Detective Tim Nothstein to assist with the prison investigation.

He said there were three inmates under investigation at the time: Sponheimer, Kent, and Dennis.

A letter to Kent had a tampered stamp on it, then two more letters containing substances on the stamps, for two other inmates, were retrieved, according to the testimony.

Telephone calls were also monitored, said Horvath. He said one call involved Kermit Sponheimer calling Kory Sponheimer and saying to the son, "Why did you put your return address on, you f......"

The agent said that from Dec. 1, 2010 to Jan.31, 2011, there were 36 calls made from Sponheimer to his residence. Of those 36 calls, 32 "were indication of drug activity or contraband into the county prison."

Another call to a female at the residence gave specific instructions on how to apply the Suboxone to the postage stamp.

Sponheimer's next court appearance will be June 21 for a pre-trial conference. He will remain incarcerated in the Carbon County Prison.