Reporting Rochelle Ritchie
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — We are learning more about the ongoing investigation into how jail guards became part of the biggest smuggling scheme in Baltimore City history. An inmate is the alleged ringleader of it all and got four women pregnant while he was behind bars.
Rochelle Ritchie has more on how the operation worked and why former inmates are not surprised.
It is an embarrassing investigation at the Baltimore City Detention Center. The correctional officers are now out of a job and behind bars, while officials try to repair a tainted image of the security policies in place. Former inmates call the investigation overdue.
Federal agents say Tavon White is the mastermind behind one of the most elaborate schemes at the Baltimore City jail, involving drugs, money and sex. White, a four-year inmate, has been charged with attempted murder and is a member of the notorious gang, the Black Guerrilla Family.
Twenty-five people, 13 of those female correctional officers, are now behind bars facing federal charges of racketeering, money laundering and possession of drugs with the intent to distribute. Investigators say the women helped White and other gang members smuggle cell phones, marijuana, prescription pills and cigarettes into the Baltimore City Detention Center.
“It’s pretty much its own city. The guards aren’t running the jail; prisoners really run the jail,” said one former inmate.
The illegal operation isn’t surprising to former inmates.
“I was in there before. Everywhere you look, people lighting up marijuana joints, tobacco…we even get alcohol in there,” said a former inmate.
Here’s how the operation worked according to FBI investigators: acquaintances of the inmates and officers would give the contraband to the guards, who would smuggle the items into the jail by hiding them in their shoes. The contraband would then be delivered to members of the gang, who would then sell it to other inmates.
A percentage of the money the gang made would be paid to the officers and the suppliers on the street for their services.
There were no cash transactions in this operation. The inmates paid for the drugs and cell phones using pre-paid debit cards that were also smuggled into the jail.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake calls the reports unsettling.
“It’s certainly dangerous when we think we are putting criminals behind bars to serve time, yet they’re still in business,” she said.
The BGF gang is no stranger to the streets of Baltimore or detention facilities across the state. In 2006, the gang dominated the prison system and former inmates say they still do today.
“They do–they run the whole thing,” said a former inmate.
Four correctional officers were impregnated with White’s child while behind bars.
And there are many more shocking details in the affidavit: stories of available sex advertised on the walls of the jail. According to documents, inmates spray-painted 14 correctional officers willing to have sex for $150.
There is so much more to this story. Through wire-tapped cell phones, FBI investigators learned White had made $16,000 in one month behind bars.