BALTIMORE, Md. (WJZ) — A former correctional officer at a Maryland state prison was convicted Friday for racketeering, drug, and money laundering conspiracies at that prison.
Jessica Vennie, 28, was charged for her role in a scheme at the Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover. The scheme involved inmates bribing correctional officers to smuggle contraband, including narcotics, tobacco, pornography, and cell phones, into the prison.
ECI is a medium-security prison for men and is the largest state prison in Maryland.
Evidence at the nine-day trial showed that from about 2015, until Oct. 5 2016, Vennie and other correctional officers smuggled contraband into ECI.
Court documents say Vennie used her sister and others to help her with the scheme, including packaging contraband for smuggling in feminine hygiene products and maintaining a PayPal account to receive bribe payments.
She also used a cell phone to communicate with inmates to make smuggling and meeting arrangements inside the prison.
Authorities intercepted text messages between Vennie, inmates, and facilitators where Vennie stated what contraband she would smuggle in, how it should be packaged, how much of bribe she demanded in return, and when she would meet with facilitators.
The “going rate” for a CO to smuggle contraband into ECI was $500 per package, with some COs charging more and others less. Inmates used smuggled cellphones to pay for the contraband using PayPal from inside ECI.
Evidence showed that Vennie smuggled narcotics, including Suboxone and synthetic cannabinoids, which were then distributed by inmates. One inmate testified that Vennie would leave packages of contraband for him in the bathroom of the Officer’s Dining Room.
Another inmate testified that a package Vennie brought in didn’t contain the quantity or quality of contraband they had agreed upon. Vennie told the inmate to “deal with it on his end.”
The inmate who had picked up the package was violently assaulted at the direction of another inmate who Vennie had smuggled the contraband in for.
Vennie was sentenced to six years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.
Out of 80 defendants charged in the scheme, 77 have been convicted, including 16 out of 18 correctional officers charged.
All defendants that have been sentenced to so far have been ordered to serve prison terms ranging from one year and a day, to 72 months.