United States Penitentiary, Lee

Coordinates: 36°42′10.7″N 83°0′5.8″W / 36.702972°N 83.001611°W / 36.702972; -83.001611
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United States Penitentiary, Lee
LocationLee County,
near Pennington Gap, Virginia
Coordinates36°42′10.7″N 83°0′5.8″W / 36.702972°N 83.001611°W / 36.702972; -83.001611
Security classHigh security (with satellite minimum-security prison camp)
Population1,528 [1,482 at the USP, 46 in prison camp] (September 2023)
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 southwestern 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 (59,000 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 was noted to be missing during a 4 p.m. count after apparently walking away from the minimum security camp.[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 died 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 Muñoz 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]
Wilson Pagan 88356-054 Serving a life sentence Former leader of the Latin Kings.
Anthony “Harv” Ellison 86282-054 Serving a 24-year sentence, scheduled for release in 2039. Currently at MDC Brooklyn. Member of the Nine Trey Gangsters, orchestrated the kidnapping and robbery of rapper 6ix9ine in 2018.
Gerardo Castillo-Chavez 65736-279 Now at USP Atwater 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]
Benjamin Arellano Felix 00678-748 Serving a 25-year sentence; scheduled for release 28 April 2032. Former leader of the Tijuana Cartel in Mexico, pleaded guilty in 2013 to conspiracy and money laundering for directing the importation of thousands of tons of cocaine into the US; the cartel killed over 1,000 civilians and police officers over a 16-year period.

Other crimes[edit]

Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
Brian Patrick Regan 41051-083 Now at FCI Hazelton 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 2057. 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. Currently at USP Yazoo City. 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]
Charles McArther Emmanuel 76556-004 Serving a 97 year sentence, scheduled for release on June 18, 2090 Serving a sentence for torture.
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]
Francisco Martin Duran 19588-016 Scheduled for release in 2029. Attempted to assassinate President Bill Clinton on October 29, 1994, when he fired 29 rounds from an SKS rifle at the White House.[19]
Eyad Ismoil 37802-054 Serving a 210-year prison sentence; scheduled for release in 2174. One of the men who planned and carried out the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Neftaly Platero 17666-035 Serving a life sentence without parole. Murdered two of his fellow soliders in 2010 in Fallujah, Iraq.[20][21][22]

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. Archived from the original on July 12, 2011. Retrieved July 28, 2010.
  5. ^ Walter Littrell (February 26, 2008). "Inmate on the lam from U.S. Penitentiary in Lee County". Kingsport Times-News. Kingsport, Tennessee. 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, Vawd.uscourts.gov.
  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. ^ "Zetas Hitman Gets Life in Prison" (Press release). San Antonio Division, FBI. October 19, 2012. Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  14. ^ "Life Sentence For Bid to Sell Secrets to Iraq". The New York Times. 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". South Florida Sun Sentinel. 2007-11-17. Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  18. ^ "Ex-sheriff moved to Virginia prison". South Florida Sun Sentinel. 2007-12-20. Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  19. ^ Roper, John. "Duran: 40 years for White House shooting". UPI. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
  20. ^ "Soldier charged with murdering fellow troops in Iraq". NBC News. 2010-10-20. Retrieved 2024-03-15.
  21. ^ Loh, Tim. "Soldier found guilty of murder in shooting of CT soldier". Connecticut Post. Retrieved 2024-03-15.
  22. ^ "Guilty Verdict In Murder Of Stockton Soldier In Iraq - CBS Sacramento". www.cbsnews.com. 2012-06-12. Retrieved 2024-03-15.

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