Former Md. corrections officer pleads guilty to racketeering conspiracy charge

A former correctional officer at a maximum-security prison in Jessup, Maryland, has pleaded guilty to a federal racketeering conspiracy charge, the United States Attorney’s Office announced Friday.

Chanel Pierce, 27, of Pikesville pleaded guilty to a charge of federal racketeering conspiracy in connection with her work at the Jessup Correctional Institution.

The Justice Department said the conspiracy included former correctional officers, inmates and others outside the prison system.

Per Pierce’s plea agreement, prosecutors said that from at least 2017 until her arrest in February, Pierce had “conspired with other [corrections officers], inmates and outside facilitators to smuggle contraband into JCI, including narcotics, alcohol, tobacco and cellphones, in order to enrich themselves and protect and expand their criminal operation.”

The agreement and other court documents also said “[corrections officers] accepted or agreed to accept payments from facilitators and/or inmates or engaged in sexual relations with inmates as consideration for smuggling contraband into JCI,” according a Justice Department news release.

“Inmates acted as both wholesalers and retailers of contraband and in the process made profits that far exceeded the profits that could be made by selling similar drugs on the street.”

The Justice Department said as “an example, conspirator inmates could purchase Suboxone strips for approximately $3 each and sell them inside JCI for approximately $50 each, or for a profit of more than 1,000%.”

The “guilty plea shows that no one in a position of public trust who carries out a criminal conspiracy is beyond the reach” of law enforcement, said Jennifer Boone, who heads the FBI’s Baltimore field office.

Pierce admitted that she “conspired with inmates and outside facilitators to smuggle contraband, including controlled dangerous substances, such as Suboxone, into JCI and then distribute the contraband to inmates,” on a regular basis while employed at the Jessup Correctional Institution, the Justice Department said.

In exchange for smuggling the contraband, the Justice Department said Pierce “received thousands of dollars in bribe payments, which were sent to her by co-conspirators on behalf of JCI inmates.”

“Corrupt correctional officers endanger the lives of their co-workers and of the inmates entrusted to their care and supervision,” said United States Attorney Robert K. Hur. “They also endanger the entire community, as prisoners can use contraband cellphones to direct criminal activity outside prison walls.”

Pierce is scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 8 and faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the racketeering conspiracy, but the Justice Department said actual sentences for federal crimes are “typically less than the maximum penalties.”

Matt Small

Matt joined WTOP News at the start of 2020, after contributing to Washington’s top news outlet as an Associated Press journalist for nearly 18 years.

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