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Dunbar Township woman pleads guilty to smuggling contraband to inmates

| Saturday, July 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A Dunbar Township woman has pleaded guilty to smuggling cellphones, hair dye and other items into inmates at a state prison where she formerly worked.

Leann Cellurale, 36, entered into a plea bargain Wednesday on charges filed by state police in September.

Cellurale pleaded guilty to possession and possession with intent to deliver contraband and a charge of contraband of a telecommunication device before Fayette County Senior Judge Gerald R. Solomon.

Under the terms of the plea deal, she will serve a jail term of three to 23 months.

Cellurale worked in the dietary department of the State Correctional Institution at Fayette in Luzerne, where she provided inmates with forbidden items — marijuana, cellphones, hair dye, Muslim oil and incense, according to a criminal complaint.

Police said Cellurale hid the packages as she entered between Jan. 24, 2012, and July 17, 2012. An unidentified inmate turned over one package containing marijuana to prison personnel on July 17, according to the complaint.

Cellurale was in the process of entering into a similar plea bargain in May when she told Judge Nancy Vernon she was unaware some of the packages contained marijuana.

“I was sent packages that were supposed to contain Muslim oil,” Cellurale said. “I can't say with 100 percent certainty it was marijuana. I was led to believe it was something else, and I was stupid enough to believe it.”

Vernon said she would allow her to plead no contest to the charges related to the marijuana. Such a plea is not an admission of guilt.

The hearing was nearly over when Cellurale tearfully apologized and told the judge she provided the items to inmates out of fear for her safety stemming from an earlier attack in the prison.

When Vernon asked Cellurale if she acted “under duress,” Cellurale responded, “Yes.”

Vernon rejected the plea.

Cellurale gave no details of the purported attack.

Prison spokeswoman Rhonda House said Cellurale is no longer employed at the prison.

House said inmates are not allowed to have hair dye because they could use it to change their appearance to escape. Muslim oil, a type of musk, is made available to them in controlled amounts during religious ceremonies, she said.

Cellurale is free on $30,000 bond as she awaits a date for sentencing before Solomon.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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