PHILADELPHIA – Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Haneef Lawton, 33, a Philadelphia Corrections Officer, Kernard Murray, 36, a currently incarcerated inmate, and Charene Stallings, 42, Murray’s girlfriend, all of Philadelphia, PA, were charged by Indictment with bribery, and conspiring to distribute narcotics and cell phones in a contraband smuggling scheme at the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center (“PICC”).
The seven-count Indictment charges defendant Lawton and his co-conspirators with one count of conspiracy, two counts of federal program bribery, and distribution (and possession with intent to distribute) a controlled substance (Suboxone). Stallings is also charged with an additional count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine base or crack.
The Indictment alleges that Lawton agreed with Murray to smuggle contraband on multiple occasions into PICC in exchange for a series of bribes. It further alleges that Murray arranged to sell the incoming contraband to other inmates. As part of the arrangement, Murray is charged with securing the agreement of his fellow inmate buyers to make payment arrangements with Stallings via cash and electronic peer-to-peer payment methods such as CashApp. In return for Lawton’s agreement to deliver the contraband to Murray, Murray and Stallings are alleged to have paid Lawton over $11,400, also using CashApp. As noted in the forfeiture notice, Murray and Stallings are alleged to have trafficked as much as $69,000 worth of contraband into PICC.
“Corrections officers have a difficult, oftentimes dangerous, job,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Williams. “But this does not give them an excuse to break the law, nor does it give them license to sell their silence. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will not tolerate this kind of lawless behavior.”
“Corrections officers are responsible for maintaining a safe environment in our prison facilities,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Philadelphia Division. “This alleged conspiracy to smuggle in dangerous contraband undermined daily order at PICC, posing a threat to both staff and inmates and putting lives at risk. Shutting down such a bribery scheme underscores the FBI's commitment to go after corruption wherever we may find it festering.”
If convicted, the defendants Lawton and Murray face a maximum possible sentence of 45 years’ imprisonment, 3 years of supervised release, and a $2 million fine. Stallings faces those same penalties and an additional potential mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life imprisonment, 5 years supervised release, and a $10,000,000 fine for the cocaine base.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Affairs from the Philadelphia Department of Prisons, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Eric L. Gibson.
Department of Justice
Office of the U.S. Attorney
Eastern District of Pennsylvania