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Former Rockbridge County Regional Jail superintendent faces new charges

Allegedly accepted free prescription drugs, gifts for preferential treatment

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LYNCHBURG, Va. – The previous superintendent of Rockbridge County jail is now facing new charges after a superseding indictment, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Prosecutors say the new charges, handed down by a grand jury on Thursday, allege that John Higgins, 61, accepted free prescription drugs while superintendent of the jail for personal use from a pharmaceutical company contracted to supply medication to inmates.

The new charges also allege that he accepted gifts from an inmate's family member in exchange for preferential treatment. 

On Thursday, he was charged in a superseding indictment on two counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and 15 counts of mail fraud. He is now facing 21 charges. 

In August, Higgins was indicted by a grand jury with four counts of deprivation of rights under color of law for refusing a detainee of medical care. The original indictment alleges that Higgins failed to protect the right of Rockbridge County Regional Jail inmates from physical abuse, resulting in inmate injuries. 

The former head nurse of the jail, Gary Hassler, was also charged in the initial indictment for allegedly falsifying documents to impede a federal investigation. 

The investigation was conducted by the FBI and Virginia State Police with help from the Commonwealth Attorney's Office for Rockbridge County. 

About the Author:

Samantha Smith joined WSLS 10’s award-winning digital team as a digital content producer in July 2018.