An obese Harris County jail inmate turned over a pistol that had been hidden in the folds of his skin after he went through at least five searches upon his arrest and was booked into two different local lockups, authorities said.
George Vera, 25,
Click to view image: 'c456478e1a6e-260xstory.jpg'is charged with possession of a firearm in a correctional facility. He also is charged with possessing or selling unlabeled recordings, the original reason for his arrest.
Authorities said he was caught with 439 compact disc recordings which did not have labels noting manufacturers or distributors.
Vera is free on a total of $10,000 bail. The Chronicle was unable to reach him at his home.
The Houston Police Department, which operates the city jail, and the Harris County Sheriff's Office, which operates the county jail, are investigating.
The case comes on the heels of the county jail passing a state inspection last week after the facility corrected problems found during a previous inspection in April.
"It's certainly troubling and that's why we're conducting an investigation to see what happened," said Christina Garza, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office.
A spokesman for the Houston Police Department, Kese Smith, said that procedures call for a suspect to be searched upon arrest, twice at the city jail and once more upon his transfer. He said there's no special provision regarding obese people, but officers are trained to thoroughly search suspects.
Vera, who is 5-foot-10 and weighs more 500 pounds, was arrested by Houston police and booked into the city jail Sunday on suspicion of bootlegging compact disc recordings, said Donna Hawkins, spokeswoman for the Harris County District Attorney's Office.
By Monday, Vera was transferred to the county jail, where he was searched at least once. While he was in the shower that day, he told a guard that he had weapon on him.
Garza said officers found a 9-millimeter handgun beneath folds of his skin. The gun was not loaded and it was unclear whether bullets were found.
The incident comes after the troubled jail at 1200 Baker passed a surprise inspection last week by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. The review found that all deficiencies cited during the April inspection had been corrected.
In April, the lockup failed inspection because of malfunctioning intercoms, broken toilets and crowding in holding cells, where inmates are placed before they are formally booked.
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