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Minnesota prison guard, inmate indicted on meth distribution scheme

Corrections officer Faith Rose Gratz and inmate Axel Rene Kramer were also involved in a romantic relationship, according to a federal indictment.

Faith-Gratz-Axel-Kramer.jpg
Faith Rose Gratz and Axel Rene Kramer
Courtesy / Washington County sheriff’s office and Minnesota Department of Corrections
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ST. PAUL -- A guard at Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater and an inmate serving a murder sentence were involved in a romantic relationship while they ran a methamphetamine operation inside the prison, according to federal charges filed this week.

A federal grand jury indicted corrections officer Faith Rose Gratz, 24, of St. Paul, and inmate Axel Rene Kramer, 35, on charges for their alleged roles in a drug distribution scheme that was carried out at the state’s largest high-security prison from at least January until early April of this year.

Gratz and Kramer each face one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Gratz also faces one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

The federal indictment filed Wednesday further details pending charges brought against Gratz in Washington County District Court in April stemming from the same alleged prison drug distribution scheme. According to the indictment, the drug operation was discovered in early April after prison officers found Kramer’s cell phone, which Gratz had given to him.

Gratz and Kramer exchanged hundreds of text messages with each other about the drug distribution conspiracy and about their romantic relationship, including talk about getting married once Kramer was done serving his prison sentence. Gratz’s cell phone number was saved in Kramer’s phone as “Bbygirl.”

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Kramer in June 2010 was sentenced to 24 years in prison for the killing of 20-year-old Alberto Samilpa Jr., who was found shot and stabbed to death north of Windom, Minn. Kramer was one of four men who reached plea deals and were convicted of second-degree murder in the killing.

The federal indictment alleges Kramer obtained “wholesale quantities” of prepackaged methamphetamine from sources of supply outside the prison. After Kramer and an unindicted co-conspirator inmate worked with the drug suppliers to arrange meet up times and locations, Gratz would pick up the drug packages.

Gratz then used her position as a prison guard to smuggle the drugs into prison and give them to Kramer while she was on duty guarding him, according to federal prosecutors. Gratz did this on approximately six different occasions.

Gratz also smuggled into the prison multiple cell phones that she gave to Kramer and warned him about upcoming searches of inmates’ cells so Kramer could hide his phone and drugs to avoid detection. Kramer used the cell phones to communicate with people inside and outside the prison and to carry out his drug distribution network from within the prison.

After finding Kramer’s cell phone, prison officers confronted Gratz on April 8 when she arrived for work. When they served a search warrant, they found half a pound of methamphetamine under the back seat of her car, according to court documents.

Gratz later admitted to bringing about six packages of methamphetamine to the inmate during the previous four months. She said at first she didn’t know what the packages contained, but admitted later learning the packages contained narcotics.

‘Deeply troubling’

The case is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI, Bayport police and the Minnesota Department of Corrections, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Initial appearance dates in federal court have not been scheduled for Gratz and Kramer.

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Washington County prosecutors have charged Gratz with one count of felony sale of 17 grams or more of methamphetamine and possession of 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. Gratz is next scheduled to appear in county court July 21.

Nicholas Kimball, a spokesman with the Minnesota Department of Corrections, did not immediately provide details on Gratz’s job status or history. After the county charges were filed in April, Kimball released the following emailed statement:

“These allegations are deeply troubling and are not indicative of the incredible work done by corrections staff every day to make Minnesota a safer place to live. Smuggling illegal drugs into a prison presents a grave risk to staff and the incarcerated population, and we will continue to cooperate fully with this case.”

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