Two people are in custody and a Spokane County Jail deputy is on paid administrative leave as authorities investigate his connections to an extortion plan allegedly hatched by a former inmate.
The deputy, Velven York, alerted authorities to the extortion attempt Sunday after he was contacted by a caller threatening to disclose his improper off-duty contacts with a former female inmate, identified as Stephanie A. Strong, according to the Sheriff's Office.
The male caller told York he needed to pay $5,000 “if he did not want his activities with Strong made public,” Sgt. Dave Reagan said in a news release.
Sheriff’s policy prohibits employees from contacting criminal suspects when off duty. York had been giving Strong rides from a drug treatment program to a halfway house where she was living, Reagan said, adding that an internal investigation will examine the extent of the relationship.
The two first met while Strong was incarcerated at the jail.
York helped detectives develop a plan that led to the arrests Monday of Strong, 28; and Douglas Ray Mobley, 29.
Sheriff’s detectives and federal agents watched York leave $5,000 at Dick's Hamburgers on East Third Avenue about 3:50 p.m. Monday, then arrested Strong and Mobley as they tried to retrieve the money.
York told detectives Strong called him several weeks ago and the two “began a chit-chat relationship of phone calls and text messages,” Reagan said.
About two weeks ago, Strong asked York for a ride from her drug treatment program back to a halfway house where she and Mobley lived.
“One ride turned into a series of rides,” Reagan said.
York told detectives about the rides when he told them of the extortion plot Sunday.
Strong is under supervision for a federal mail theft and fraud conviction from 2007. Mobley is on federal probation for a gun conviction. Both remain in jail on new charges of felony extortion.
York, who has worked with the sheriff's office for about five years, was placed on paid leave Monday.