United States Penitentiary, Lee

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United States Penitentiary, Lee
USP Lee from southeast.jpg
Overview from U.S. Route 58
LocationLee County,
near Pennington Gap, Virginia
Security classHigh security (with satellite minimum-security prison camp)
Population1,472 (143 in prison camp)
Managed byFederal Bureau of Prisons

The United States Penitentiary, Lee (USP Lee) is a high-security United States federal prison for male inmates in Virginia. It is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a division of the United States Department of Justice. The facility also has an adjacent satellite prison camp which houses minimum-security male offenders.

USP Lee is located in the Lee County Industrial Park an unincorporated area in Lee County, Virginia,[1] in the southwest part of the state. The prison is located off of U.S. Route 58 at the intersection of Route 638, near Pennington Gap and 8 miles (13 km) east of Jonesville.[2]


The annual per capita income of Lee County was $12,917 in the early 1990s, making the Virginia area a prime candidate to host a federal prison and bring money into the community.[3]

Architectural and construction work of the 635,097-square-foot (59,002.4 m2) facility was administered by Hayes, Seay, Mattern & Mattern, now known as AECOM.[4] Computer modeling was utilized to identify and minimize blindspots of prison watchtowers. Construction began in the summer of 1998 on a budget of $102 million. The penitentiary was completed in August 2001 and began receiving inmates in 2002. According to project manager Gary Carsten of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the main recurring problem of the facility is the excessive strain on Lee County's sewage system.[3]

Archaeological discoveries on the prison property include arrowheads and pottery from a Native American gravesite believed to be associated with an ancient hospital dating as far back as 10,000 years.[3]

Notable incidents[edit]

On February 25, 2008, inmate Edward Porta apparently walked away from the minimum security camp when he turned up missing during a 4 p.m. count.[5] Porta defrauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture of more than $400,000. He remained a fugitive for over eight years until he was recaptured in May 2016, and was profiled on the television program America's Most Wanted.[6]

There have been incidents of violence at USP Lee and several homicides. Inmate Quinten Corniel was killed on September 30, 2008 and inmate Ernest Bennett on January 22, 2010, both during altercations with other inmates.[7][8] On April 29, 2010, Filikisi Hafoka, a member of the Tongan Crip Gang, was taken off life support after being stabbed on the previous weekend.[9] As is procedure, USP Lee went into lockdown after these incidents and investigations were conducted. The killers of Corniel and Bennett were subsequently convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.[10][11]

Notable inmates (current and former)[edit]

Organized crime[edit]

Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
Dandeny Munoz-Mosquera 37459-053 Serving a life sentence. Assassin for the now-defunct Medellin Drug Cartel in Colombia; convicted in 1994 of blowing up an Avianca jetliner over Bogota in 1989, killing all 107 people aboard, including two US citizens, in one of the deadliest acts of drug-trade terrorism in history.[12]
Gerardo Castillo-Chavez 65736-279 Serving a life sentence. Hitman for Los Zetas, the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel in Mexico; convicted in 2012 of racketeering, drug trafficking conspiracy and weapons charges for committing crimes on the cartel's behalf including kidnapping, assault and murder.[13]

Other crimes[edit]

Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
Brian Patrick Regan 41051-083 Serving a life sentence. Former intelligence analyst for the US Air Force charged with attempted espionage and gathering secret information for attempting to sell satellite technology and other classified material to Iraq and China for $13 million.[14]
Jose Ramirez-Dorantes 23196-298 Serving a 55-year sentence; scheduled for release in 2058. Pleaded guilty in 2013 to murdering a federal official in connection with the robbery and fatal shooting of US Customs and Border Patrol Agent Robert W. Rosas, Jr. on July 23, 2009; his accomplices are also serving long sentences.[15]
Mohammed Modin Hasan 75673-083 Serving a life sentence. Somali pirate leader; convicted in November 2010 connection with an April 2010 attack on the American warship Nicholas, during which Hasan fired a rocket propelled grenade at what he believed was a merchant ship he and his co-defendants aimed to commandeer.[16]
Ken Jenne 77434-004 Released from custody in 2008; served 1 year. Former Broward County Sheriff; pleaded guilty in 2007 to mail fraud and tax evasion for illegally accepting over $150,000 in improper payments, income and other benefits from Sheriff's Office contractors.[17][18]
Eyad Ismoil 37802-054 Serving a 240 year prison sentence; scheduled for release on August 29, 2204. One of the men that planned and carried out the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "USP Lee." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on January 3, 2012. "USP LEE U.S. PENITENTIARY LEE COUNTY INDUSTRIAL PARK HICKORY FLATS ROAD PENNINGTON GAP, VA 24277"
  2. ^ "USP Lee." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on January 3, 2012. "USP Lee is located in southwest Virginia in Lee County, 8 miles east of Jonesville, off U.S. 58 at the intersection of State Route 638."
  3. ^ a b c Matthew Crawford (October 6, 2005). "Obstacle Course". Correctional News. Retrieved July 28, 2010.
  4. ^ "U.S. Penitentiary & Satellite Camp (Lee County, Virginia)". Hopkins Foodservice Specialists. Retrieved July 28, 2010.
  5. ^ Walter Littrell (February 26, 2008). "Inmate on the lam from U.S. Penitentiary in Lee County". Kingsport Times-News. Retrieved July 28, 2010.
  6. ^ "Edward Porta". America's Most Wanted. April 22, 2009. Archived from the original on April 17, 2012. Retrieved July 28, 2010.
  7. ^ Michael Owens (October 2, 2008). "Few Details Released In Lee County Federal Prison Death". TriCities.com. Retrieved July 28, 2010.
  8. ^ Wes Bunch (January 22, 2010). "Lee County prison on lockdown after inmate's death". Kingsport Times-News. Retrieved July 28, 2010.
  9. ^ Melinda Rogers (April 30, 2010). "Former Utah gang member killed while serving prison sentence in Virginia". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved July 28, 2010.
  10. ^ "United States of America v Robert Gbanapolor" (PDF). Vawd.uscourts.gov. Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  11. ^ [1] Archived February 25, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ McFadden, Robert. "Drug Trafficker Convicted Of Blowing Up Jetliner." The New York Times. December 20, 1994. Retrieved on January 3, 2012.
  13. ^ "FBI — Zetas Hitman Gets Life in Prison". Fbi.gov. Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  14. ^ "Life Sentence For Bid to Sell Secrets to Iraq". Iraq; China; United States: NYTimes.com. 2003-03-21. Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  15. ^ "Third Defendant Sentenced in Murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Robert Rosas". Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 19, 2013. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  16. ^ "Five Somalis Convicted of Piracy Against USS Nicholas". Federal Bureau of Investigation. US Department of Justice. November 24, 2010. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
  17. ^ "Ex-Broward sheriff jailed year and a day - tribunedigital-sunsentinel". Articles.sun-sentinel.com. 2007-11-17. Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  18. ^ "Ex-sheriff moved to Virginia prison - tribunedigital-sunsentinel". Articles.sun-sentinel.com. 2007-12-20. Retrieved 2015-10-15.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°42′10.7″N 83°0′5.8″W / 36.702972°N 83.001611°W / 36.702972; -83.001611