BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Federal authorities say they have indicted 80 people, including correctional officers 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.
“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.”
After taking office last year, Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary, Stephen T. Moyer says he assigned eight investigators to work directly with the federal agencies to root out corruption inside the Eastern Correctional Institution (ECI), 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 with an East and West compound. The indictments covers both compounds.
Authorities allege that the COs accepted payments from inmates, or engaged in sexual relations with inmates, to smuggle contraband, including narcotics, cell phones and tobacco. The rate was about $500 a package, authorities say.
The inmates would then pay COs for the smuggled contraband in cash, money orders and even PayPal. Inmates were able to use contraband cell phones to pay COs directly using PayPal from within ECI.
Federal investigators say COs and other prison employees were required to pass through a security screening upon entering the jail, but they were able to hide the contraband on their persons. Sometimes, COs took breaks during their shifts and returned to their cars to retire the contraband.
According to the indictment, the inmates were able to avoid having their contraband confiscated thanks to the help of the COs. The indicted COs would warn inmates when the prison administration was planning a cell search and inmates would hide the contraband or pass to other inmates who were not being searched.
But not everyone would be cooperative during the “contraband operation”.
Authorities say when COs learned that inmates were attempting to alert prison administration they would try to prevent the inmate from doing so, or have one of the defendants retaliate, sometime violently.
“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.”
Each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the racketeering conspiracy, among other charges.
The inmates charged in the indictments will have initial appearances at a later date.
The following 80 were indicted today:
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
- 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
- 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
- Donte Harris, age 26, of Kennisburg, Colorado
- Jessica Vennie, age 27, of Crowley, Texas
- 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
- 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, Marylan
- Dameshia Vennie, age 34, of West Palm Beach, Florida
* recently released
**a former correctional officer who served with DPSCS from 2004 to 2007