Fresno man charged with throwing 3 pounds of meth into federal prison yard

Methamphetamine Wheelen threw into FCI Mendota's recreation yard.
Bundles of methamphetamine that federal prosecutors say Garrett Scott Wheelen threw into FCI Mendota's recreation yard on May 1. (U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California)

A Fresno man is accused of throwing more than three pounds of methamphetamine into a federal prison's recreation yard in broad daylight — a case that could land him behind bars for up 20 years.

Garrett Scott Wheelen, 33, was indicted Thursday in the Eastern District of California for possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. The charges follow a May 1 incident at a medium-security prison in Mendota, about 35 miles west of Fresno.

According to a criminal complaint, Wheelen arrived at the prison wearing a green baseball cap, face mask and black hoodie. His appearance caught the attention of the staff and he ignored one officer’s commands to stop moving, the complaint said.

Wheelen ran from the northwestern end of the parking lot toward the facility’s recreation yard, prosecutors allege, and threw four white packages over the fence and into the yard.

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Officers chased Wheelen as he fled from the facility, catching him after he got stuck in a muddy area. Bureau of Prisons staff identified Wheelen as a former FCI Mendota inmate.

The packages, which were recovered by prison officials, contained three pounds and three ounces of methamphetamine and one and a half pounds of tobacco, authorities said.

Mendota inmates who were near the packages were ordered to immediately leave the yard and searched, prosecutors said, and no contraband was recovered.

Federal court records show Wheelen pleaded guilty in 2021 to possession of stolen mail and mail fraud. He received a two-year sentence and was on supervised release at the time of his recent arrest.

Court records show Wheelen denied the latest charges against him at a May 21 hearing. His attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.