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Two Delco Correctional Officers Arrested for Allegedly Smuggling Fentanyl into County Prison

(This article first appeared in Broad + Liberty.)

Two correctional officers at the Delaware County prison were arrested Thursday and have been charged with smuggling into the prison a substance that tested positive for fentanyl , court filings and affidavits show.

Adham Diab, 43, and Lina Tarrad, 35, were both arrested by the Delaware County Criminal Investigations Division (CID). Both face three charges: drug possession, possession of contraband, and conspiracy to commit a crime with contraband and/or a possession of a drug. The arrest affidavits say Diab and Tarrad are married.

Magisterial District Judge Wendy B. Roberts set bail at $300,000 for both, requiring a ten percent deposit for release. The court docket says neither was able to post bail.

According to Diab’s arrest affidavit, a prison investigator went into a bathroom that is off limits to the incarcerated population. Diab had been in that bathroom moments before.

The investigator noticed a baggy of a substance that looked like a drug that had apparently been left behind. Investigators then sequestered both Diab and Tarrad and began to question them.

“Diab was then searched and in his pants pockets were one small baggie containing a white substance, stamped ‘waverunner,’” and a similar bag was found on Tarrad, according to the affidavits.

“The narcotics was field tested…and tested positive for Fentanyl,” the CID detective said in the affidavit.

A spokeswoman for the county declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation.

The website, which tracks inmates all across the country, indicated that both suspects had been transferred to a different prison, most likely so the two would not be residents among the same prison population they had been policing just days before.

Fentanyl acts similar to opioids like heroin, but is “a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine,” according to the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC also estimates that “[o]ver 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.”

Court records also show the pair were involved in a landlord-tenant dispute last year in which the plaintiff, NOPG Owner LLC, was awarded over $9,000 in damages of unpaid rent.

The arrests come just weeks after the president of the prison employees union, Frank Kwaning, publicly went before the Delaware County Council to tell the five-member board that employee morale at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility was dangerously low.

“The [union] members are as frustrated as they could be. So through the members, I am told to let you know that the council should step in,” Kwaning said on Dec. 13. “Go to the facility. Talk to the members. The morale is at its lowest level. One may have thought that with this interim agreement that we have with the $3 raise that we have gotten — and we thank the council for agreeing with the union for the $3 raise — we were of the view that with the $3 raise, the morale was going to be up. But because of the treatment that has been meted out to the members, the morale is at its lowest, at best.”

Councilmember Richard Womack told Kwaning the county “would likely try and see if we could fix that in some kind of way.” Councilman Brian Madden, who heads the county Jail Oversight board refuted Kwaning’s notion that the council had been hands-off in its management style.

“Mr. Kwaning, I recognize your position as head of the union. Given the fact there is an open negotiation over an agreement, I will, as always, refrain from engaging in a back-and-forth about such things,” Madden said. “But I will certainly remind you and others that I am regularly at the facility and I am regularly interacting with the workforce. So, you know, any suggestion that council is not involved regularly with our facility would be inaccurate.”

The GWHCF was the last privately managed prison in Pennsylvania until 2022. In February of that year, the county installed its own handpicked warden. In April, the facility shifted back to government control.

Since then, the annual budget of the prison has gone up, recidivism has not been reduced, deaths per year at the facility are up, even though the daily population has been down by about nineteen percent.

Update: This article has been modified from its original version to include information about the 2023 landlord-tenant dispute involving Tarrad and Diab.

How Did a Convicted Murderer Get Appointed to Montco Board? Nobody’s Talking.

A convicted killer becomes an advisor to a prison system. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke.

But it’s no laughing matter in Montgomery County.

In 1985, Vernon Steed shot and killed Serena Gibson, an innocent bystander who was with her family nearby when he fired at a fellow criminal in a drug dispute.

In 2022, Montgomery County Commissioners made Steed a member of the Prison Board of Inspectors, a citizen oversight committee.

Now Steed, 55, is back behind bars, accused of stealing some $95,000 in public-assistance funds by filing phony paperwork using the names of his friends and relatives.

Concerned citizens are asking why elected county officials would appoint a criminal like Steed to a county board. But nobody is willing to say just how he came to the position in the first place, even after his arrest last month.

Joseph Gale, the lone Republican on the county Board of Commissioners, strongly opposed Steed’s appointment. When asked how Steed ended up on the board in the first place—whether he sought out the position or was actively recruited by the county’s Democratic commissioners—Gale said he didn’t know.

“You would have to ask the commissioners who voted for him if they encouraged him to apply,” he told DVJournal. “I certainly didn’t ask him to seek the position; I voted against his appointment.”

County commissioner and board chair Kenneth E. Lawrence, Jr. did not respond to questions about the circumstances surrounding Steed’s appointment. Nor did former commissioner Valerie Arkoosh, who was on the county board at the time of Steed’s appointment and who is now the acting secretary of the state human services department.

At the time, Arkoosh made her support of Steed’s appointment clear.

“I just want to comment that I do intend to support Mr. Steed’s appointment. That he will bring an individual to the Prison Board of Inspectors with lived experience. And I think that will be an extremely important perspective to have as part of our county Prison Board of Inspectors.”


“DHS has no comment,” spokeswoman Ali Fogarty told DVJournal.

Asked about Steed’s appointment, county spokeswoman Kelly Cofrancisco said the system worked as designed. “The commissioners review all applicants for volunteer board positions and make appointments through official action during their board meetings,” she said.

She previously told DVJournal last month the county “continues to support applicants from all backgrounds to apply to serve on Montgomery County boards and commissions in a volunteer capacity.”

“The county remains committed to appointing residents with lived experience and diverse perspectives to serve in these positions,” she added.

The county invites interested applicants to apply for the prison inspector board on its website.

The board is “unique in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” the county says, calling it “a citizens’ oversight board for the humane treatment of Montgomery County incarcerated individuals” and one that “maintains oversight of Prison operations.”

Board inspections “provide a sounding board for incarcerated individuals,” the county’s website says, while board members “are there to notice any particular patterns or needs such as upgrading the telephone system or implementing tablets with access to the internet.”

Board members also perform “administrative duties, oversight of personnel, expenditures, and other budgetary items.”

Steed’s criminal history at the time of his appointment last year had been touted as a bona fide supporting his candidacy. He was expected to bring “lived experience” to the board, Arkoosh said during deliberations. She called it “an extremely important perspective to have as part of our county Prison Board of Inspectors.”

Gale retorted, “The lived experience that this individual brings is 32 years in state prison for murder.” Following Steed’s recent arrest, he called the scandal “unacceptable and embarrassing.”

“It was an absolute disgrace for the Democrat County Commissioners to appoint a convicted murderer to the Prison Board of Inspectors in the first place,” he said.

“Now, less than a year later, their decision to override my opposition has proven to be a grave error in judgment, which jeopardized the safety and welfare of many,” Gale added.

Steed is accused of stealing nearly $100,000 in COVID-19 emergency funds by using other people’s names to apply for the money.

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