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Two charged with drug smuggling

ST. CLAIRSVILLE –Law enforcement at the Belmont County Jail reportedly halted a scheme to smuggle drugs into the facility.

Two people are facing charges, and officials are closing the loophole that allowed the scheme to progress.

Sheriff David Lucas said his deputies launched an investigation Thursday into Adam and Hannah Ruthers of Bellaire.

“It was brought to my attention at our morning briefing that conveyance of illegal drugs into the jail,” Lucas said. “Not only us, all jail institutions have the problem of drugs getting into the jail. The people, the inmates, all they’ve got is 24/7 to think of ways of getting drugs in here.

“We knew that some stuff was getting inside our jail, and our people inside the jail have been watching, paying attention,” he said, adding that jail security includes a body scanner and jumpsuits for inmates rather than their own clothes.

Lucas explained the legal bind investigators were in.

“From the good work of the corrections officers and the staff at the jail, it was figured out that drugs were coming into the jail using bogus legal mail,” he said. “By law, we’re not allowed to open it up and examine it. … But we’re still allowed during investigations … if it comes to a point that we feel we have a reasonable suspicion (the mail can be searched).

“We found quite a few strips of suboxone in the mail,” he said.

Officers then executed a search warrant at the Ruthers residence on Franklin Street in Bellaire and found forged legal mail, illegal narcotics and a large amount of counterfeit money.

Hannah Ruthers, 33, is charged with counterfeiting, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of methamphetamine and suboxone and conveyance of drugs into a detention facility.

Adam Ruthers, 34, who has been incarcerated in the jail since Jan. 7 on a probation violation for a burglary conviction and has since incurred another charge of criminal damaging, is now charged with complicity to commit conveyance of drugs into a detention facility.

“It was a real good day,” Lucas said. “(Deputies) don’t waste no time. They run with it, and by the afternoon, before the end of the day, they had her in custody.”

Lucas said legal mail includes letters from the public defender or an inmate’s private attorney.

On Monday, Lucas will meet with the Belmont County commissioners to iron out a new system to review legal mail.

“We’ve already been ahead of this. The meeting was already set up. We’ve been in the process of looking into it,” Lucas said, adding that mail will be scanned by a third party vendor and provided to the inmate without the physical copy.

“Shortly down the road, that’s going to be stopped completely,” Lucas said. “We’re really going to put the brakes on this.”

Lucas said his detectives are further investigating whether the counterfeit money found at the Ruthers residence is related to several cases of counterfeit money being passed in the Ohio Valley.

Anyone with information about these matters is asked to call Deputy Dustin Hilderbrand at 740-695-7933, ext. 322.

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