PA: Allegheny County Jail officer arrested on drug-related charges

Post Gazette News –

The Jail Officer was charged with  introducing the drug K2, a Schedule 1 synthetic cannabinoid into a detention facility

Allegheny County police on Thursday arrested a county jail correctional officer on drug-related charges.

Lewis Bagnato, 32, of Kennedy, was charged with contraband, delivery of controlled substances, possession with intent to deliver and related offenses following an internal affairs investigation at the facility, according to a release from county police.

County police said staff in the jail’s Discharge and Release Center contacted internal affairs on April 27 with correspondence from an incarcerated person indicating he or she had information on the drug K2 being brought into the facility.

Following an interview with the incarcerated person and contacts with additional people, internal affairs said it learned Mr. Bagnato was bringing contraband into the facility to sell, police said. The witness said Mr. Bagnato pulled out a page of K2 to give to him and arranged to communicate with the witness’s girlfriend about payment through the smartphone application Cash App, according to a criminal complaint affidavit.

Mr. Bagnato was referred to as “Uncle Kirk.” Video surveillance from April 10 showed an initial encounter between the incarcerated person and the officer.

Police also interviewed the witness’s girlfriend, who, according to the affidavit, identified a photo of Mr. Bagnato as “Uncle Kirk.”

In the affidavit, she said she met with “Uncle Kirk” to give him $2,300 from multiple deposits made from her Cash App account. They met the evening of April 11 at the Shoppes of Chartiers Crossing plaza parking lot near Aldi where she allegedly gave him the $2,300. Closed circuit TV cameras showed the girlfriend’s vehicle and Mr. Bagnato on a black motorcycle at the reported time of the meeting, according to the affidavit.

The witness’s girlfriend also provided text messages between her and “Uncle Kirk” discussing the transfer of an additional $200. A search of telephone records placed calls between the witness’s girlfriend and “Uncle Kirk” to a cell tower near Mr. Bagnato’s McKees Rocks residence and a cell tower near the witness’s girlfriend’s residence.

Authorities, citing information from the incarcerated person, allege that Mr. Bagnato provided him or her another page of K2 a second time April 10, the officer allegedly saying he needed $600 before he went home. Mr. Bagnato also allowed the incarcerated person to move from cell to cell to offer the drug and explain how to pay for it, police said. Review of video surveillance footage showed a second encounter between the witness and Mr. Bagnato that day. The witness’s cell was searched April 15, and the drugs were found.

The contraband was seized and submitted to the county medical examiner’s lab for testing. The report, received earlier this week, revealed the item in question was positive for a Schedule 1 synthetic cannabinoid.

Mr. Bagnato was taken into custody Thursday morning when he reported for his shift. He is awaiting arraignment on the charges. He has been suspended pending termination, and his security clearances have been revoked. Mr. Bagnato was hired as a correctional officer in December 2019.

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