A Sunderland man and a prison cook are behind bars after conspiring to smuggle Spice, hidden in a cereal box, into a jail for use by inmates.
Lindsey Keir was caught carrying over £108,000 worth of banned items into HMP Northumberland, hidden in Shredded Wheat and Crunchy Nut Cornflakes boxes, when she was stopped by security at the jail gates in November 2016.
The 47-year-old single mum, who had worked in prison kitchens for more than two decades, confessed she had confided in prisoners about her cashflow problems about a year earlier and ended up "selling her soul" for their "dirty money" since.
Keir said she had used the "dirty" cash to buy a mobility scooter for her father, a car for her daughter and have new windows fitted at her home.
At Newcastle Crown Court Keir, who said she was "relieved" to have been caught, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply former legal high Spice and conspiracy to supply prohibited items into a prison.
Gary Weldon, of Arthur Avenue, Sunderland, admitted the same charges.
The court heard the 34-year-old, whose brother Christopher was serving a life sentence at the prison, was responsible for the contents of the Crunchy Nut Cornflakes box, which had a value behind bars of £54,906 and contained Spice, prescription drugs and SIM cards.
Prosecutor Alec Burns told the court: "He had packed those items and taken them from his house, through the Tyne Tunnel, to that of Lindsey Keir for delivery."
Keir and Weldon have now both been jailed for two years and eight months.
Mr Recorder Nicholas Lumley QC said Keir had become "trapped in a cycle of greed" and that she was "an ideal person for prisoners to prey upon".
The judge said: "Prisons are dangerous enough places without drugs, with drugs they become places where people are at greater risk of harm or death."
The judge said Spice puts prison staff "at risk" and has caused inmates deaths in the past.
Ross Reay, 27, of West View, Sunderland and Gavin Richardson, 26, of Nile Street, Sunderland, both admitted possession with intent to supply Spice after their finger prints were found on the inner packages within the Crunchy Nut Cornflakes box.
The court heard they had helped with packaging on Weldon's behalf but did not know the destination of the drugs was prison.
Reay was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with 250 hours unpaid work.
Richardson was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with 270 hours unpaid work.
The court heard the boxes Keir was carrying on the day of her arrest contained Spice, prescription drugs, phones, tranquilisers, steroids, SIM cards, Jack Daniels, syringes and hypodermic needles.
Prosecutor Alec Burns told the court; "She said she was relived to be caught, fully admitted the offences and said it had gone on for months and months.
"She explained she had been struggling with finances, she had a daughter at uni and she thought her wages were about to be reduced.
"She admitted she had made the mistake of saying it in front of prisoners."
Keir, of Lawrence Avenue, Amble, Northumberland, confessed she had hoped to take in just one batch of contraband but ended up taking in "more and more" and had "sold her soul".
Peter Schofield, defending Keir, said she had struggled with mental health and suffered bereavements.
Mr Schofield said: "She is ashamed of what she did. It created in itself even more stress for her."
Chris Morrison, defending Weldon, said the hard working dad was a "link in a chain, no more than that" and had only been involved in one box.
Tony Hawks, also defending, said Reay and Richardson "did not know it was Mr Weldon's intention to supply it into the prison system."
Detective Constable Carl Wray,
Detective Constable Carl Wray, of Northumbria Police’s Northern CID, said: "This is a very serious offence and we work closely with prisons to prevent this type of criminal activity.
"It is harder than ever before to smuggle contraband into a prison and if anyone does try and do it then they should expect to be identified and placed under arrest.
"These four individuals thought they could beat the system but they were wrong and must now face the consequences.
"Ultimately, if you try to smuggle drugs or contraband into prison then you could find yourself behind bars."