Crime & Courts

Maintenance worker accused of trying to smuggle drugs to inmate at Seward prison

A maintenance worker at Seward’s maximum-security prison is accused of trying to smuggle drugs to a man incarcerated at the facility, charges say.

Paul Cottrell, 58, was charged Friday with promoting contraband, misconduct involving a controlled substance and tampering with evidence.

The Spring Creek Correctional Center superintendent reached out to troopers last week because he suspected Cottrell was working with a man recently released from prison to deliver Suboxone to another man still incarcerated there, Alaska State Trooper Evan Oncay wrote in a sworn affidavit. Suboxone is prescribed to treat opioid addiction, but also can be abused.

Troopers reviewed phone conversations between the two other men that began in October and appeared to contain slang that referenced drugs, the affidavit said. During their investigation, troopers found messages sent this month between Cottrell and the man who was out of custody discussing a package containing eyeglasses that Cottrell agreed to deliver to the other man inside the prison, the affidavit said. The man still incarcerated at Spring Creek often assisted Cottrell with plumbing work, the affidavit said.

Investigators confronted Cottrell last week about their suspicions that he was involved in smuggling drugs into the facility, the affidavit said. They used a drug detection dog to search the area where Cottrell worked with the inmate, and the dog indicated at a spot where no contraband was found — which a K9 officer advised was indicative of a substance being there previously, the affidavit said.

The day after the K9 search, Cottrell told the Spring Creek superintendent he’d received a package, and investigators later serving a search warrant found the package in his home, the affidavit said. The package contained eyeglasses in a case that had 93 Suboxone strips hidden in the lining, the affidavit said.

Cottrell, who had deleted text messages with the other man about the package, told investigators he believed it contained only the glasses, according to the affidavit.


Trooper Oncay wrote in the affidavit that text messages and post office records appeared to indicate Cottrell had previously received other such packages. When faced with that information, Cottrell told the trooper that he didn’t remember those packages, according to the affidavit.

Cottrell was arrested Friday and has since posted bail and is on supervised release.

The two other men, who were convicted of first-degree murder in unrelated cases, have not been charged in relation to the alleged drug smuggling plans. The investigation is ongoing and additional charges are possible, troopers spokesman Austin McDaniel said.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter focusing on breaking news and public safety. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota. Contact her at