Federal Indictments Charge 80 Defendants in Alleged Racketeering Conspiracy at Maryland’s Eastern Correctional Institution
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
18 Correctional Officers Charged for Taking Bribes to Smuggle Contraband into State Prison; 35 Inmates and 27 Facilitators Also Indicted in Investigation Supported by State Officials; Two Officers Face Civil Rights Charges
Baltimore,Maryland – A federal grand jury has indicted 80 defendants in two separate indictments for a racketeering conspiracy operating at the Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, Maryland. The indictments charge 18 correctional officers (COs), 35 inmates and 27 outside “facilitators,” for their roles in the conspiracy, which allegedly involved paying bribes to correctional officers to smuggle contraband, including narcotics, tobacco, and cell phones, into the prison. The indictments were returned on September 29, 2016, and unsealed today.
The indictments were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Postal Inspector in Charge Terrence P. McKeown of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - Washington Division; Secretary Stephen T. Moyer of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services; and Colonel William M. Pallozzi, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police.
“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. “We will continue to work closely with state officials to prosecute correctional officers who bring cell phones, drugs and other contraband into correctional facilities, and to propose appropriate changes in prison policies and practices.”
“Few things threaten our society more than public servants who betray their oath for personal gain,” said Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the FBI's Baltimore Division. “It was extremely courageous of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to allow the access required to conduct this type of investigation. The state of Maryland and the FBI together have made this community safer.”
“After taking office last year, I assigned eight investigators to work directly with the federal agencies to root out corruption, which is my chief priority,” said Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Stephen T. Moyer. “Today’s actions, which are a result of the extraordinary partnership of the DPSCS Investigative Unit, the FBI, and our other state and federal partners, 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.”
“Today’s arrests by Postal Inspectors and our law enforcement partners serve as a warning to street criminals and corrupt public servants that the nation’s mail system is not a tool for use by those who traffic in drugs and illegal contraband,” said Postal Inspector in Charge Terrence P. McKeown of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - Washington Division. “We are committed to safeguarding the interests of law abiding citizens and our Postal Service employees by working to eliminate these dangerous substances from the U.S. mail.”
According to the indictments, the Eastern Correctional Institution (ECI) is the largest state prison in Maryland, operating since 1987 near Westover, in Somerset County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. ECI is a medium-security prison for men built as two identical compounds (East and West) on 620 acres, and housing more than 3,300 inmates. The East and West Compounds are further divided into Housing Units, 1 through 4 in the West and 5 through 8 in the East.
The first indictment covers the West Compound at ECI and charges a total of 39 defendants, including nine COs, 17 ECI inmates, and 13 outside suppliers or “facilitators.” The second indictment covers the East Compound at ECI and charges a total of 41 defendants, including nine COs, 18 ECI inmates and 14 facilitators.
The indictments allege that the COs accepted payments from facilitators and/or inmates, or engaged in sexual relations with inmates, to smuggle contraband into ECI, including narcotics, cell phones and tobacco. The “going rate” for a CO to smuggle contraband into ECI was $500 per package, although some COs charged more and some COs charged less. According to the indictments, inmates and facilitators paid COs for smuggled contraband in cash, money orders, and through PayPal. Inmates were able to use contraband cell phones to pay COs directly using PayPal from within ECI. Inmates also received payments from other inmates for contraband through PayPal, often with the assistance of facilitators.
The indictments allege that the defendants conspired to smuggle and traffic in narcotics within ECI, including heroin, cocaine, MDMA, commonly referred to as “molly” or ecstasy, buprenorphine, commonly referred to as “Suboxone,” a prescription opioid used to treat heroin addiction, marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids (otherwise known as “K2”), and other contraband, including cell phones, pornographic videos and tobacco, in order to expand their criminal operations. The profits made by the inmates by selling contraband in the prison far exceeded the profits that could be made by selling similar items on the street. For example, defendant inmates could purchase Suboxone strips for $3 each and sell them inside ECI for $50 each, a profit of more than 15 times the purchase price.
According to the indictments, although COs and other ECI employees were required to pass through security screening at the entrance to ECI, defendant COs were able to hide contraband on their persons. Further, COs took breaks during their shifts and returned to their cars to retrieve contraband. Once the COs had the smuggled contraband inside the facility, they delivered it to: inmates in their cells; clerk’s offices, which were private offices within each housing unit where an inmate clerk worked; the officer’s dining room where officers could interact with inmate servers and kitchen workers; and pre-arranged “stash” locations like staff bathrooms, storage closets, laundry rooms and other places where contraband could be hidden and then later retrieved by inmates. The indictment alleges that defendant inmates who had jobs that allowed them to move throughout the housing unit and elsewhere in the prison, commonly referred to as “working men,” took orders for contraband from inmates, provided orders to corrupt COs and delivered contraband to inmates. The affidavits filed in support of the search warrants discuss an inmate who admitted paying COs $3,000 per week to smuggle. According to the West indictment, another inmate said he aimed to make $50,000 before he was released.
The defendants allegedly used cell phones to communicate with one another and coordinate contraband smuggling and trafficking activities and some shared a “dirty” phone among themselves for contraband smuggling purposes. According to court documents, the conspirators rented post office boxes to send drugs and bribe payments to the COs.
The indictment alleges that COs warned inmates when the prison administration was planning cell searches so that the inmates could hide contraband or pass it to other inmates whose cells were not being searched. The COs also monitored inmates to determine if they were providing information to the prison administration about contraband smuggling. When the COs learned that inmates were providing information to the prison administration, they would allegedly try to prevent them from doing so or would alert defendant inmates so that they could retaliate against these inmates, sometimes violently.
According to the indictment, defendants used violence to obtain contraband once it was smuggled into the facility, to ensure that contraband paid for by an inmate was delivered to that inmate, and to retaliate against inmates that provided information, or attempted to provide information, to the prison administration about corrupt COs and contraband smuggling, or that otherwise interfered with their contraband trafficking activities. For example, the West Compound indictment alleges that an inmate was stabbed at the direction of a defendant CO after the inmate filed a complaint against the CO which caused the CO to be removed from the housing unit. At the time of his removal, the CO owed several inmates contraband that he had been bribed to smuggle into ECI.
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. Two correctional officers and two inmates charged in the indictment covering the West Compound at ECI also face a maximum of 10 years in prison for deprivation of rights under color of law for allegedly participating in the stabbing of two inmates in separate incidents. Initial appearances for the correctional officers and facilitators arrested today are being held in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. The inmates charged in the indictments will have initial appearances at a later date.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
The U.S. Attorney expressed appreciation to Secretary Moyer whose staff initiated the ECI investigation and who has made the full resources of the DPSCS available to assist the three-year investigation. The state/federal coordination was on display on October 5, 2016 when the execution of dozens of federal search warrants coincided with the simultaneous searches of cells of the more than 30 inmate defendants, some of whom are no longer at ECI.
U.S. Attorney Rosenstein also recognized the efforts of the Maryland Prison Task Force which has brought together federal, state and local agencies in meetings to generate reforms in prison procedures and facilitate joint investigations of prison corruption and prison gangs. Mr. Rosenstein thanked the members of the Maryland Prison Task Force and the and other agencies who assisted in this investigation and prosecution, including: United States Marshal Johnny Hughes; Special Agent in Charge Karl C. Colder of the Drug Enforcement Administration - Washington Field Division; Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh; Tom Carr, Director of the Washington-Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area; Somerset County Sheriff Ronald Howard; Queen Anne’s County Sheriff Gary Hofmann; Wicomico County Sheriff Michael A. Lewis; Worcester County Sheriff Reggie T. Mason, Sr.; Salisbury Police Chief Barbara Duncan; Commissioner Kevin Davis of the Baltimore Police Department; Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department; Somerset County State’s Attorney Dan Powell; Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matthew Maciarello; Worcester County State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby; Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby; Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Wes Adams; and the Wicomico, Somerset, Queen Anne’s and Worcester County Narcotics Task Forces.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, the Baltimore Police Department and Maryland State Police for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leo J. Wise, Robert R. Harding, and Daniel C. Gardner, who are prosecuting this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case.
West Compound Indictment
Aaron Bohl, age 34, of Parksley, Virginia;
Rozlyn Bratten, age 31, of Snow Hill, Maryland;
Rachelle Hankerson, age 26, of Salisbury, Maryland;
David Hearn, age 54, of Eden, Maryland;
Xavier Holden, age 27, of Salisbury;
Jesse James Jones, age 27, of Delmar, Maryland;
Thomas Leimbach, age 32, of Pocomoke City, Maryland;
Kimberly Rayfield, age 37, of Crisfield, Maryland; and
Stephen Wise, age 34, of Pocomoke, Maryland.
Mohammed Akram, age 34;
Aaron Bell, age 34;
Shawn Benbow, age 33;
David Bond, age 30;
Joseph Branch, age 35;
Robert Costen, age 35;
Michael Counts, age 37;
Travis Gie, age 24;
Jamar Hutt, age 27;
Samuel Johnson, age 36;
Troy Johnson, age 37;
Demario King, age 37;
Mark Lance, age 36;
Michael Page, age 35;
Ternell Lucas, age 42;
Shawn Sullivan, age 41;
Kevin Stanley, age 36.
Reggie Fosque, age 26, of Princess Anne, Maryland;
Cammay Gray, age 31, of Los Angeles, California;
Chastity Harmon, age 40, of Princess Anne;
Leondrus Higgins, age 29, of Salisbury, Maryland;
Deonya Johnson, age 34, of Baltimore;
Terrell King, age 23, of Chestertown, Maryland;
Markayla Reynolds, age 23, of Salisbury;
Chavia Savage, age 23, of Salisbury and Baltimore;
Ronald Stewart, age 33, of Baltimore;
Tyeacha Thomas Counts, age 34, of Columbia, Maryland;
Kevin Thompson, age 37, of Baltimore;
Trina Williams Johnson, age 44, of Baltimore; and
Angel Whittington, age 35, of Salisbury.
East Compound Indictment
Sherima Bell, age 37, of Pocomoke, Maryland;
Erin Burfield, age 32, of Salisbury, Maryland;
Jocelyn Byrd, age 39, of Salisbury;
Erica Cook, age 32, of Snow Hill, Maryland;
Travis Dennis, age 27, of Pittsville, Maryland;
Aaron Ennis, age 35, of Hebron, Maryland;
Dnte Harris, age 26, of Kennisburg, Colorado;
Jessica Vennie, age 27, of Crowley, Texas; and
Robert Waters, age 32, of Salisbury.
Michael Andrews, age 27;
Artie Bailey, age 31;
Orlando Bowen, age 25;
Jamar Butler, age 33;
*Ramel Chase, age 34, of Glen Burnie, Maryland;
Alexander Crippen, age 42;
Maurice Fox, age 36;
Stewart Gough, age 38;
Darian Holmes, age 38;
Marty Imes, age 35;
Reginald Johnson, age 37;
Zachary Martin, age 36;
Devon Matos, age 33;
Vincent Middleton, age 31;
Michael Null, age 31;
Sean Smith, age 25;
Darrell Timms, age 32; and
Alvin Williams, age 35.
Keisha Barksdale, age 30, of Baltimore, Maryland;
Eugene Bowen, age 51, of Salisbury, Maryland;
Nicole Carpenter, age 29, of Denton, Maryland;
Katrina Crippen, age 38, of Ft. Washington, Maryland;
Darren Dale, age 29, of Salisbury, Maryland;
Antoine Gray, age 44, of Ft. Washington, Maryland;
Elvia Hall, age 46, of Baltimore, Maryland;
Marcus Lisbon, age 37, of Brooklyn, Maryland;
Miguel Matos, age 46, of Ft. Washington, Maryland;
Samantha Oliver, age 28, of Baltimore, Maryland;
**Apryl Robinson, age 32, of Baltimore, Maryland;
Rahman Shabazz, age 50, of New York, New York;
Rose Thomas, age 56, of Brooklyn, Maryland; and
Dameshia Vennie, age 34, of West Palm Beach, Florida.
* recently released
**a former correctional officer who served with DPSCS from 2004 to 2007