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Fed jail guard admits smuggling drugs to inmates, could become inmate himself

Dirksen Federal Building | Sun-Times file photo

Dirksen Federal Building | Sun-Times file photo

A Chicago man who worked as a federal correctional officer admitted Thursday that he smuggled drugs, cigarettes and a cell phone into the feds’ downtown jail.

Rafael Lizak, 29, may have made only $4,000 off the scheme hatched by an inmate, according to his plea agreement. Now, he could spend years as an inmate himself.

He said little before pleading guilty Thursday to one count of taking a bribe as a federal official. He told U.S. District Judge John Lee he spent time in the military and in corrections but now stays at home with his daughter.

Lizak worked as a correctional officer at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. That’s where he was approached in early 2017 by an inmate named Felipe Zamora, who offered to pay for Lizak’s help getting drugs and other contraband into the jail.

Lizak agreed to help, according to his plea agreement. So Zamora passed along the phone number for his sister, Guadalupe Zamora, and said she would deliver the drugs and Lizak’s payment, the feds say.

The correctional officer met Zamora’s sister outside the MCC at least four times in the spring and summer of 2017, records show. Guadalupe Zamora gave Lizak plastic baggies filled with K2, packs of cigarettes and at least one cell phone, the feds say. Each time, she also paid Lizak $1,000.

Meanwhile, the value of the goods Lizak smuggled into the jail ranged from $6,500 to $15,000.

Lizak agreed in his plea deal to cooperate with the feds. Assuming he does so — and the judge goes along — he could be looking at roughly two years in prison. The maximum sentence is 15 years.

Charges are still pending against Felipe and Guadalupe Zamora, as well as Carlos Fuentes, an inmate who is accused of taking orders for contraband from others in the jail.