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A former Avenal State Prison employee was arrested this week for allegedly having sex with inmates and providing them with drugs.

Kings County Deputy District Attorney Phil Esbenshade said Mary Ann Cano, 46, of Lemoore, allegedly committed sexual acts with two inmates at the facility, provided inmates with cellphones and narcotics, and accepted money from inmates. Esbenshade said the alleged misconduct took place between February 2011 and May 2014 when Cano was working as a supervising cook at the prison.

“The inmates worked with her in the kitchen,” Esbenshade said.

Cano pleaded not guilty to the charges during arraignment Tuesday. A preliminary hearing has been set for Jan. 30.

The Kings County Sheriff’s Office arrested Cano Sunday on a warrant issued by the Kings County Superior Court on Jan. 12. Cano is charged with receiving bribes, bringing narcotics into a prison, bringing a controlled substance into a prison, having sex with a prisoner while employed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, delivering a cellphone to an inmate and selling a controlled substance to a prisoner.

Cano is being held in the Kings County Jail with bail set at $120,000.

Bill Sessa, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said Cano was a cook at Avenal State Prison from September 2007 until her voluntary resignation in January 2015. Sessa referred questions about the circumstances of Cano’s arrest to the Kings County District Attorney’s Office.

“Typically, we don’t divulge the details of what comes out of our (CDCR) investigation,” Sessa said.

Esbenshade said Cano could face up to 11 years and four months in prison if convicted on all charges. While it’s a felony for a prison employee to have sex with an inmate, someone who is convicted of that crime is not required to register as a sex offender.

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2458 or meiman@HanfordSentinel.com.

 

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