Three Texas prison officials have been arrested and charged with attempting to destroy evidence at the Eastham Unit.
The officials were arrested in July in a scheme to set tractor parts on fire behind the Eastham Unit men’s prison in Lovelady, Texas about 25 miles northwest of Houston. Their intention was to destroy evidence of stolen tractor parts.
Court records show that the Eastham Unit’s farm shop property manager, Jason Omelina, was charged with theft and two high-ranking officials based in Huntsville, Terry Price and Rick Ellis, were charged with tampering with evidence.
The Office of the Inspector General is investigating the case along with the Internal Audit Division and the State Auditor’s Office. It is not clear how much material was burned and buried.
The illegal actions began when an inmate tried to smuggle farm equipment off the unit. At this time the Office of the Inspector General and the State Auditor’s office started an investigation which resulted in the arrest and charges of the officials.
Investigators found the burn pit and questioned a number of workers and inmates. They ultimately determined the prison officials, not the inmate stole the surplus tractor parts and farm equipment. Ellis and Price allegedly told Omelina to “make the state’s surplus assets disappear.”
These arrests come after several prison officials were indicted on official oppression and tampering with evidence after conspiring to plant screwdrivers in an inmate’s cell.
In the past five years, there have been more than 75 arrests or charges of tampering with evidence or records filed against TDCJ officers. That figure only includes cases investigated by the Office of the Inspector General.