Aramark employee allegedly smuggled drugs into Whatcom County Jail

A Mount Vernon woman who works for the food service vendor at the Whatcom County Jail is suspected of smuggling contraband Suboxone strips and heroin into the jail and giving it to inmates, according to the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office said in a press release Friday, Oct. 4, it was already reviewing Aramark Corporation for vendor performance issues and that it would recommend to the Whatcom County Executive and County Council that the food service contract at the jail be awarded to another company.

“Many practices and safeguards are in place to prevent the introduction of contraband to the jail,” the release said. “Contractors and those conducting business in the jail are subject to background investigations and security checks. They are also subjected to random searches when entering the facility.

“In this instance, an employee not only committed a serious felony that endangered others, but breached the public trust. Additional procedures have been implemented that further restrict items, such as backpacks, from being brought into the jail.”

Aurelia Diaz Brin, 54, was booked into the jail on Sept. 20 on suspicion of delivery of heroin, possession of heroin by a person not a prisoner, second-degree introducing contraband and three counts of third-degree introducing contraband. According to jail records, she was released on personal recognizance Sept. 22.

The sheriff’s office did not release information on the arrest until Friday while it completed an investigation to see if others were involved in the case, but “insufficient evidence exists at this time” to charge others, the release stated.

Brin began working for Aramark in April of 2019, according to the release.

In September, the Corrections Bureau deputies became suspicious that Brin was smuggling contraband into the jail, the release stated. Detectives reviewed camera footage, telephone logs and cell phone data, before Brin reportedly admitted to detectives that she was indeed bringing items into the jail.

Brin told detectives that in August she met with a former inmate in Skagit County who gave her a bag of “unknown items” to bring to the Whatcom County Jail, the release said. She reportedly was asked to deliver the bag to an inmate who worked as a trusty in the kitchen.

Brin delivered it to the inmate, according to the release. The investigation later revealed the items in the bag included Suboxone strips, approximately 1 gram of heroin and seven pills that were packed in a chewing tobacco can, according to the release.

Brin also told detectives that at least twice between May and August she met with an inmate’s mother outside the jail and received cans of tobacco to bring to her son, who as an inmate inside the jail, the release said. Brin reportedly brought the tobacco cans into the jail inside her backpack.

Inmates also were allowed to use Brin’s cell phone to make personal calls while they worked in the kitchen, she reportedly told detectives.

According to the county’s contract with Aramark, which expires on Dec. 31, the county is paying $1.24 per meal — a 3% increase over the 2018 price. The maximum the county will pay in 2019, according to the contract, is $525,000, which is less than 2018 due to reduced jail populations.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.