RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina inmate described as a high-ranking member of the Bloods street gang faces a federal kidnapping charge after authorities say he used a mobile phone to help orchestrate the abduction of a prosecutor's father.
An arrest warrant was issued Friday for Kelvin Melton, who is serving a life sentence for ordering the shooting of a Raleigh man in 2011.
Melton is accused in the Saturday kidnapping of Frank Arthur Janssen of Wake Forest. Janssen, 63, was rescued Wednesday by the FBI at an Atlanta apartment.
Five others have also been arrested and charged.
The case highlights the problem of inmates getting access to smuggled smartphones that can allow them to make calls, exchange email, browse the Internet and maintain Facebook profiles. They can also direct criminal conspiracies, authorities say.
Melton, 49, had a mobile phone in his cell at Polk Correctional Institution in Butner, exchanging at least 123 calls and text messages with the alleged kidnappers in the past week, according to the FBI. Authorities closed in on the suspects by tracking their mobile phones and listening to their calls.
Melton also made about 100 calls to his daughters, according to the FBI.
Melton is being held on "maximum control" status after racking up several infractions over the past year, including being cited for possessing a weapon and twice for having a mobile phone.
In 2013, 747 mobile phones were confiscated from inmates in North Carolina's prisons. So far this year, 166 have been seized.
Officials at the state Department of Public Safety concede many are brought in by prison employees bribed by inmates or their relatives. They are now investigating how Melton got the phone.
The North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys called Friday for improved protections for prosecutors and their families, as well as increased punishment for people caught smuggling mobile phones into prisons. They also want the state prison system to invest in electronic devices that can jam cellular signals.
According to testimony from his 2012 trial, Melton is a high-ranking member of the Bloods street gang from New York City who ordered a 19-year-old subordinate to travel to Raleigh and kill his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend.
Court records show Melton has a long record of felony convictions in New York, the first being a 1979 robbery committed when he was 14. He pleaded guilty of manslaughter and robbery in 1998 and served more than 13 years in New York prisons before being released in August 2011.
Melton was arrested in the shooting in Raleigh the following month. It is not clear from the court record why Melton came to the South, but he was still supposed to be serving parole in New York through 2015.
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