TAMPA, FLA. | BY LETITIA STEIN US | Thu Apr 2, 2015 5:22pm EDT
(Reuters) – Florida officials on Thursday said undercover investigators had broken up a murder scheme involving Ku Klux Klan members working in state prisons, announcing the arrests of three men who intended to kill a released black prison inmate.
The current and former state prison guards planned to inject the former inmate with insulin and make it look like he had drowned while fishing at a lake, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi told reporters.
The suspects also had a gun in case the plan didn’t work, she said.
Authorities, who had been tipped off, were visible throughout the area that day and prevented anything from happening, Bondi said.
Working with the FBI, state prosecutors later staged a homicide scene where they took photographs that made it look like the former inmate had been shot and killed.
The photos were showed to the corrections officers and alleged Klan members, who “were very proud of this killing,” Bondi said.
Two of the men currently work for the Florida Department of Corrections, and the third was a former employee, officials said.
The murder was supposed to be in retaliation for a fight between the inmate and one of the guards, authorities said.
The defendants were members of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist organization, said Bondi.
They were each charged with conspiring to commit murder, and if convicted could be sentenced to 30 years in state prison, she said.
“We will not tolerate, nor will we ever remain silent, over the violence of hatred embedded in prejudice in this country,” she said.
Officials said the FBI was also involved in the case, which will be prosecuted in north Florida’s Columbia County.
Bondi declined to say whether there would be additional arrests in the case.
The arrests come as Florida’s prison system is struggling with staffing and budget issues and is under fire over inmate deaths and whistleblower accusations of a violent culture.
(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by David Gregorio)