Feds: 80 charged in prison racketeering, drug conspiracies

BALTIMORE (AP) — Correctional officers at Maryland’s largest state prison for years helped scores of inmates smuggle narcotics, tobacco, pornography and cellphones into the facility in exchange for money and sex, according to a pair of sweeping federal indictments against 35 inmates, 18 jail guards and 27 “outside facilitators” unsealed Wednesday.

The indictments allege a racketeering scheme at the East and West compounds of the Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, Maryland, that involved smuggling heroin, cocaine, MDMA, ecstasy and Suboxone, among other narcotics, into the jail in exchange for cash, money orders and in some cases, sexual favors. The indictments say guards were able to sneak the contraband past security screenings and deliver it to inmates in their cells or at pre-arranged “stash” locations, laundry rooms, staff bathrooms and other areas.

“Prison corruption is a longstanding, deeply-rooted systemic problem that can only be solved by a combination of criminal prosecutions and policy changes,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein in a statement.

Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Stephen Moyer said he assigned eight investigators to work with the FBI and other federal agencies to crack the case. The indictments, he said, “send a strong message that we will no longer tolerate corruption committed by a few tarnishing the good work of our 10,500 dedicated and committed department employees.”

According to the indictment, defendant correctional officers routinely warned inmates when prison administrators were planning to conduct cellphone raids. In some cases, when participating prison guards learned that inmates were supplying administrators with information, or “snitching,” they would alert other inmates and encourage them to retaliate, often using violence. Twice in July, prison guards encouraged inmates to stab other prisoners.

The indictments come on the heels of a high-profile prison contraband scandal at the Baltimore City Detention Center in 2014 in which 44 people were federally indicted. The racketeering scheme’s ringleader, Tavon White, who was also a known member of the Black Guerrilla Family gang, impregnated several prison guards and on a recorded telephone line famously told a friend on the outside, “This is my jail.”

According to this indictment, prisoners and guards were very much aware of the Baltimore case, as evidenced by telephone calls that were recorded with them discussing it.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

© 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up