A total of 46 Georgia correctional officers were indicted on a variety of corruption charges, including accepting bribes, drug trafficking, and smuggling contraband into correctional facilities. Authorities confirmed the officers were identified in an undercover FBI investigation called “Operation Ghost Guard.”
According to a press release, which was published at FBI.gov, Operation Ghost Guard began with an investigation into contraband cellular phones. The investigation was prompted by an April 2014 incident involving North Carolina inmate Kevin Milton.
New York Post reports Milton, who is “a high-ranking member of the Bloods street gang,” used a smuggled cellular phone to communicate with fellow gang members while serving a life sentence at Polk Correctional Institution. He also used the phone to arrange the kidnapping and torture of 63-year-old Frank Arthur Janssen.
Although Janssen was found by the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team before he was killed, the kidnapping sparked a probe into contraband cellular phones in correctional institutions.
Operation Ghost Guard was initiated by the FBI in collaboration with the Georgia Department of Corrections in May 2014. Within the first year, authorities located and seized more than 23,500 contraband cellular phones in Georgia correctional facilities.
Nobody talks about the five or six correctional officers in Georgia who HAVEN’T been arrested for drug trafficking. pic.twitter.com/2B7q1zvOr9
— Mannheim Peenroller (@drhappyknuckles) February 12, 2016
As reported by the United States Department of Justice, the phones were used in the commission of numerous crimes, including drug trafficking, identity theft, money laundering, and wire fraud.
Even more disturbing, authorities determined many of the contraband phones were brought into the prisons by Georgia correctional officers, who were paid up to $1,000 per phone.
In addition to the cellular phones, Georgia correctional officers are accused of providing inmates with alcohol, drugs, and weapons.
Over a period of two years, the investigators discovered a startling number of correctional officers were willing to use their badges to facilitate illegal activities, including drug deals.
“… numerous GA DOC officers were willing to use their law enforcement credentials to protect what they believed were drug deals involving multiple kilograms of methamphetamine and cocaine. In a series of undercover operations, more than 45 correctional officers used their law enforcement status to protect drug deals in exchange for thousands of dollars in cash bribe payments.”
The indicted Georgia correctional officers include 46 current and former guards at Autry, Baldwin, Dodge, Dooley, Hancock, Macon, Phillips, Pulaski, and Riverbend State Prisons.
According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, the grand jury also indicted civilians Quardarrius Duhart and Marvin Johnson and GDC inmate William Dale Bragg.
The latest wave of indictments is the fourth in the last two years.
On September 24, 2015, a total of 12 people, including Georgia correctional officers, inmates, and civilians, were arrested and indicted on numerous federal counts. The charges included drug trafficking, credit card fraud, and identity theft.
On January 13, 2016, a total of 17 people, including three Georgia DOC inmates, were indicted on numerous federal charges including drug trafficking. According to reports, the suspects used “contraband cellular telephones inside of prison” to facilitate “the distribution of illegal narcotics…”
On January 16, a total of 50 people, including several Georgia correctional officers, were indicted on numerous federal charges, including accepting bribes and conspiracy to commit money laundering and wire fraud.
Since its inception, Operation Ghost Guard “has resulted in charges against approximately 130 prison employees, inmates, and non-incarcerated co-conspirators.”
The United States Department of Justice confirmed the ongoing investigation is being conducted by the FBI, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and the Georgia Department of Corrections Office of Professional Standards.
— KTLA (@KTLA) February 11, 2016
Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Homer Bryson said he and the DOC “will not stand for the endangerment of staff, inmates, and the overall operation” of the state’s prisons.
Although more than 50 Georgia correctional officers were indicted and will stand trial on federal charges, the DOJ underlines the fact that all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
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