Indictments against 80 people alleged to have participated in a conspiracy to bribe corrections officers into allowing contraband into a Maryland prison in exchange for sex and money were unsealed today. The federal indictments, which were handed down on Sept. 29, allege that the accused, who include inmates, corrections officers, and what the U.S. Department of Justice labels “facilitators,” conspired to sneak forbidden items such as pornography, cell phones, and illicit drugs into the Eastern Correctional Institution (ECI) in Westover, Maryland.
Federal Indictments Charge 80 Def In Alleged Racketeering Conspiracy at Maryland’s Eastern Correctional Institution. https://t.co/CPsqZubkw8
— US Attorney Maryland (@USAO_MD) October 5, 2016
The indictments were announced after federal agents raided the medium-security prison in the early morning hours on Wednesday. At the same time, warrants were being served statewide.
Those charged in the federal indictments include 35 inmates, 18 corrections officers, and 27 others. The allegations revolve around a central scheme of officers accepting bribes or sex in exchange for allowing contraband to be brought into ECI, which is the largest prison in Maryland and houses 3,300 inmates.
Of the 18 officers named in the indictments, nine are accused of accepting bribes and having sex with inmates. Thirty-five prisoners were named in the indictments, accused of bribing officers in order to sneak contraband into ECI with the intent to sell it for large profits. Twenty-seven facilitators are alleged to have supported the enterprise.
The federal indictments are the largest in Maryland history but do not represent the only time inmates and officers of a state prison have been accused of running a criminal operation through the use of drugs, sex, and violence. The Baltimore Sun likens the ECI case to one that occurred in 2013 in the Baltimore City Detention Center. The 2013 indictments of the Black Guerilla Family gang, whose other criminal activities are detailed by Inquisitr, alleged they were able to take control of the detention center through intimidation and bribery. Twenty-four members of the Black Guerilla Family were handed indictments in 2009 for a similar operation at the Metropolitan Transition Center. All three facilities involved in these indictments are run by the state of Maryland.
The cases also mirror each other in that a group of the corrections officers named in the indictments are alleged to have had sex with prison inmates. Other officers are accused of ordering inmates to retaliate against prisoners who reported the alleged illegal behavior to administrators. Prosecutors allege that in July alone, some ECI officers now named in the indictments told inmates to stab other prisoners. One of the attacks was done in retaliation after an inmate filed a complaint against the officer who directed the original attack. The incidents resulted in the indictments of two inmates and two officers for federal civil rights violations.
The Baltimore Sun published a statement by Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.
“One of the most significant aspects of this indictment is that it illustrates what happens inside a prison when this sort of systemic corruption flourishes. Pervasive corruption such as we saw in this case leads to the breakdown of the legitimate operations of the institution.”
According to Secretary Stephen T. Moyer of the Maryland Corrections Department, the indictments were made possible due to the “extraordinary partnership” that occurred between the FBI, law enforcement agencies, and the Corrections Department. Moyer’s department alone put eight investigators on the case, which began in 2013 after a corrections officer reported the alleged scheme.
Initial hearings for defendants were held on Wednesday at the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, reports the Baltimore Sun. Some of those named in the indictments included an inmate father whose son was also imprisoned at ECI. A 46-year-old woman was indicted for helping her inmate son engage in the scheme.
Among the recordings made by investigators of inmates’ phone calls was one in which former corrections officer Apryl Robinson is alleged to have talked about the possibility of being recorded after a corrections officer was arrested in May.
“I hope it ain’t nothing like, remember did you see on the news what happened down [the Baltimore City Detention Center] out here? ‘Bout a year maybe 2 years ago, it was a BGF dude he was pretty much doing the same thing, the whole time like somebody was listening on the conversation, somebody was telling pretty much. It was a whole, like, what’s going on now, but it was over city jail.”
Other details to emerge during Wednesday’s hearings included the $500 price paid to officers for each package containing drugs smuggled in for resale. Cell phones sneaked in were used to make payments to officers via PayPal, but payments were also made with cash or money orders, says WBAL. According to prosecutors, officers hid contraband in their underwear or crotches, in their hair, or inside of feminine protection products.
The indictments include allegations that corrections officers warned inmates involved in the scheme when to expect their cells to be searched, which allowed them to hide contraband or give it to inmates whose cells were not on the list to be searched that day.
WBAL reports the sentence for racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to distribute or to possess with intent to distribute drugs is a prison term of up to 20 years.
Each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the racketeering conspiracy and for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute drugs. The four charged under the civil rights indictments could also be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.
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