Maryland: Inside prison corruption case

maryland 24india news

A “culture of corruption and lawlessness” drove stabbings and drug smuggling at the Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, according to federal court documents.

Eastern Correctional Institution, the largest prison in the Maryland corrections system, is the center of two federal indictments announced Wednesday, by the Office of the U.S. Attorney in Baltimore. Unsealed court documents show drugs, tobacco and cellphones flowing behind the walls and cash flowing to the outside — thanks to the help of at least 18 corrupt correctional officers.

The Bloods and the Black Guerrilla Family — infamous for the takeover of the Baltimore City Detention Center — are mentioned in the documents. Unlike theBaltimore City Detention Center scandal, neither gang appears to be front and center within the allegations.

Sex with inmates and smuggling

Take for example Jocelyn Byrd, who records show joined the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services in July 2007.  While working on the eastern compound as a corrections officer, Byrd smuggled Suboxone strips — a drug used to wean heroin addicts from their opiate addiction — on behalf of Black Guerrilla Family member Maurice Fox, according to an affidavit.

For five years, according to confidential informants, Byrd smuggled the strips for Fox at a rate of $500 a trip. Fox was serving a 30-year sentence for a second-degree murder conviction in Prince George’s County, according to the Maryland Judiciary Case Search.

Byrd, unlike other accused correctional officers (COs) who had to pick up product from inmates’ associates on the outside, actually had her own Suboxone supplier, records show. And Suboxone was a valuable commodity within the prison — a single strip could be bought at $7 on the street and flipped within the prison for $50, federal prosecutors say.

Byrd is one of the few COs that court documents explicitly state had sexual relationships with inmates. At least three inmates, whose names were redacted in the records, had sex with Byrd either in their cells or inside the compound’s gym.

In the West compound, inmate Joseph “Sandtown” Branch and CO Kimberly Rayfield, an eight-year corrections veteran, had been involved with one another for several years, according to the court records.

While serving a 25-year sentence for second-degree murder out of Baltimore, Branch was a “working man” — an inmate with a job — who was assigned as a clerk. The inmate had a goal to make at least $50,000 before being released from ECI, and Rayfield helped by smuggling in tobacco, K2 — synthetic marijuana — and pornographic DVDs, an affidavit states.

“The freak ones,” Branch texted Rayfield when placing the order for the DVDs.

The records state the average for a corrupt CO charged to smuggle goods within the prison was $500 per trip. Investigators say Branch helped the CO pay down her credit card debt with the smuggling proceeds.

How officers and inmates made money

In most of the cases highlighted within federal documents, inmates would use cellphones smuggled in by the COs to contact people on the outside — many times a father, a mother or a girlfriend, the records show. These “facilitators,” in the legal parlance, would handle the money made by the inmates by uploading them up toPayPal accounts or MoneyGram, investigators say.

Once an order for contraband was placed, a facilitator would meet a CO at a location like the Queenstown Premium Outlets, in Queenstown, Md., records show. The product and bribe money would change hands and the CO would then deliver it within the facility — from there, the inmates hustled the product, according to the federal filings.

But it didn’t always go like that, the investigation revealed.

CO David Hearn frequently picked up the product on behalf of inmates Michael Counts and Travis Gie from a P.O. box in Princess Anne, according to federal records. Counts is serving 30 years in prison on a second-degree murder conviction, while Gie is serving 15 years in prison on a narcotics rap.

Gie had arranged with a facilitator to open the P.O. box and leave a key for Hearn, records show. Counts, according to an affidavit, had developed a friendship with Hearn prior to smuggling.

“Before any of that (smuggling) when (sic) down me and him used to talk. You know, if he was hungry or wanted a soda I would give it to him. … He used to bring me food from his house. That like his wife cooked,” Counts said in an intercepted phone call.

Hearn delivered cellphones, tobacco and K2 to the two inmates twice a week, federal records show. An ounce of K2, which wouldn’t show up in inmates’ random urine screens, could fetch up to $1,500 on the inside, according to federal estimates.

But things wouldn’t always go smoothly in the smuggling operation, the federal filings show.

On July 21, inmate and Bloods gang member David Bond stabbed a fellow inmate at the direction of CO Rachelle Hankerson, a smuggler for the gang, according to an indictment. Bond was serving a 10 year term for second-degree assault.

Shawn Sullivan, an inmate serving 15 years for attempted second-degree murder, arranged for a stabbing in the west compound on July 31, an indictment states. The stabbing was in retaliation for an inmate’s complaint that led to the transfer of COStephen Wise from a housing unit, according to the records.

Wise had several outstanding shipments at the time of his transfer, according to the filing.

The 80 people charged in the indictment are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The Maryland Prison Task Force, comprised of state and federal authorities, is actively investigating other incidents of corruption and smuggling at ECI.

324 total views, 3 views today