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Montana State Prison sergeant charged, at least five other officers on leave

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Montana State Prison sergeant charged, at least five other officers on leave

Feb 14, 2024 | 7:36 pm ET
By Keila Szpaller
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Montana State Prison sergeant charged, at least five other officers on leave
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Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge. (Provided by the Montana Department of Corrections.)

A Montana State Prison sergeant faces felony charges for selling and distributing marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms to at least four other prison workers and for money laundering, according to Deer Lodge County District Court records.

Defendant Scott Patrick Elliott and five other prison employees identified in an affidavit that outlines the allegations are on leave, the Montana Department of Corrections confirmed Wednesday.

Those employees are one sergeant, three correctional officers including Elliott’s wife, and one correctional lieutenant. The DOC provided the status of their employment but could not state the reason the employees were on leave. The DOC said they have not been charged.

Elliott is charged with two felony counts of distribution of dangerous drugs and one count of money laundering, “exceeding $1,500 in aggregate.” The affidavit alleges he distributed the drugs from the start of 2021 to January 2024 .

“Defendant treated the distribution of (drugs) as a business and for his financial benefit,” the affidavit said. “It also appears to have been used to ingratiate himself with other MSP staff.

“While the specific profits are unclear, the quantity of known sales and the known prices charged by defendant indicate that he received thousands of dollars in exchange (for) providing regular shipments of marijuana.”

The DOC announced the charges against Elliott late Tuesday. However, the DOC said Elliott did not provide drugs to inmates.

The affidavit said he did not distribute drugs inside the prison in Powell County, but that at least one exchange had planned to occur on prison grounds. It said he used his Anaconda residence, and the only known transfers took place in Deer Lodge County.

Elliott began employment with the prison in 2000, according to the affidavit. The court document said he uses and distributes unprescribed medication and “regularly abuses illegal drugs and attempts to recruit others to do the same.”

Department of Corrections Director Brian Gootkin said in a news release the department is working with its partners to “ensure the expanded use of technology to detect illegal activity in its facilities.”

The prison employs 628 workers, according to the Department of Corrections. In an email, Gootkin said the “hard-working men and women” ensure the prison runs “24 hours a day, seven days a week,” to protect Montanans.

“It is our commitment to ensure we are focused on having the best people possible working in these positions of trust and holding those who break that trust accountable,” Gootkin said in a statement.

In outlining the transactions between Elliott and other prison staff, the affidavit quotes text messages between Elliott and the other officers about drug transfers, including “purchases that were large.”

The affidavit notes marijuana is considered a “dangerous drug” in Montana, but limited possession is permitted in the state. However, the possession or consumption of marijuana is not allowed on prison grounds, the affidavit said.

Elliott is alleged to have sold or given away psilocybin, or psychedelic mushrooms, from May 2023 to July 2023 to one other employee, and to have illegally sold marijuana to at least four prison staff from 2021 through 2024.

He is ordered to appear in court Feb. 28. The Daily Montanan could not reach Elliott for comment through a request to the Department of Corrections.

Elliott was part owner of a dispensary in Butte that had a license to sell marijuana, but it expired in October 2020, the affidavit said.

“At all relevant times in the case, defendant did not have licensure to dispense marijuana or marijuana products,” said the court record. “Even if his dispensary license remained intact, he would not be permitted to sell … outside of his dispensary.”

The affidavit said an investigation started in October 2023 to determine whether Elliott had “become corrupted and was smuggling contraband” into the prison.

The maximum penalty for distribution of dangerous drugs is 25 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. The maximum for money laundering is not more than 20 years in prison and $50,000.

Deer Lodge County Attorney Ben Krakowka is prosecuting the case, and a court document indicated Assistant Attorney General Patrick Moody was working on the case and awaiting an appointment to serve as co-counsel.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information from the Department of Corrections that the other employees on leave have not been charged.

Elliott affidavit