Prison case nets 80 peo­ple

Cor­rec­tions officers, in­mates in­dicted in cor­rup­tion on Shore

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Kevin Rec­tor, Justin Fen­ton and Jes­sica An­der­son

Fed­eral au­thor­i­ties have won in­dict­ments against 80 peo­ple, in­clud­ing cor­rec­tions officers and in­mates, in an al­leged con­spir­acy to sneak heroin, co­caine, cell­phones, pornog­ra­phy and other con­tra­band into the East­ern Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tu­tion in Westover.

The largest fed­eral in­dict­ment in Mary­land his­tory is the lat­est to al­lege that officers and in­mates used sex, drugs and vi­o­lence to run a crim­i­nal en­ter­prise out of a state prison fa­cil­ity.

It mir­rors the 2013 case in which the Black Guer­rilla Fam­ily gang used sim­i­lar meth­ods of bribery and in­tim­i­da­tion to seize con­trol of the Bal­ti­more City De­ten­tion Cen­ter.

Fed­eral prose­cu­tors now charge 18 cor­rec­tions officers, 35 in­mates and 27 oth­ers in a scheme in which the officers al­legedly took bribes to sneak con­tra­band into ECI, the state’s largest prison.

As in the 2013 case, some of the officers are ac­cused of hav­ing sex with in­mates. Oth­ers are ac­cused of try­ing to iden­tify “snitches” who were re­port­ing the mis­con­duct to prison ad­min­is­tra­tors, and di­rect­ing other in­mates to re­tal­i­ate against them.

Twice in July, prose­cu­tors said, officers di­rected in­mates to stab other in­mates, once in re­tal­i­a­tion for the tar­geted in­mate fil­ing a com­plaint against the of­fi­cer.

“One of the most sig­nif­i­cant as­pects of this in­dict­ment is that it il­lus­trates what hap­pens in­side a prison when this sort of sys­temic cor­rup­tion flour­ishes,” Mary­land U.S. At­tor­ney Rod J. Rosen­stein said. “Per­va­sive cor­rup­tion such as we saw in this case leads to the break­down of the le­git­i­mate op­er­a­tions of the in­sti­tu­tion.”

Stephen T. Moyer, sec­re­tary of the state’s

cor­rec­tions depart­ment, said the in­dict­ments were the re­sult of an “ex­traor­di­nary part­ner­ship” be­tween his agency, the FBI and other law en­force­ment agen­cies. He said he had as­signed eight in­ves­ti­ga­tors to work with fed­eral of­fi­cials and root out cor­rup­tion.

Au­thor­i­ties an­nounced the in­dict­ments af­ter pre-dawn raids in which fed­eral agents swooped into the medium-se­cu­rity fa­cil­ity, which holds 3,300 in­mates, and served war­rants across the state.

Nine cor­rec­tional officers each from the fa­cil­ity’s west­ern and east­ern com­pounds are ac­cused of “abus­ing their po­si­tions of trust as sworn officers … by en­gag­ing in il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties for the pur­poses of en­rich­ing them­selves and en­gag­ing in sex­ual re­la­tions with in­mates.”

Thirty-five in­mates are ac­cused of so­lic­it­ing cor­rec­tions officers to smug­gle con­tra­band into the fa­cil­ity to be sold for a “sub­stan­tial profit.” Twenty-seven other peo­ple — one of whom is a for­mer state cor­rec­tions of­fi­cer — are ac­cused of fa­cil­i­tat­ing the il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity.

Two officers and two in­mates in­volved in the stab­bings face ad­di­tional civil rights charges.

The case is the third large-scale in­dict­ment to tar­get al­leged cor­rup­tion in a state-run cor­rec­tions fa­cil­ity in the last decade. The two prior cases — in which 44 were in­dicted at the city jail in 2013 and 24 were in­dicted at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Tran­si­tion Cen­ter in 2009 — both in­volved the BGF gang cor­rupt­ing officers’ ranks.

The ECI case, in which prose­cu­tors said mul­ti­ple gangs prof­ited, dwarfs those in­dict­ments.

The scope was ap­par­ent in U.S. Dis­trict Court in Bal­ti­more on Wed­nes­day, as dozens of de­fen­dants ap­peared for ini­tial hear­ings held in three court­rooms through­out the day.

Fed­eral prose­cu­tors, ap­pointed de­fense at­tor­neys and U.S. mar­shals criss­crossed the halls to at­tend the hear­ings, in which ad­di­tional de­tails came into fo­cus — in­clud­ing fam­ily con­nec­tions be­tween in­mates and those ac­cused of fa­cil­i­tat­ing the al­leged con­spir­acy from the out­side.

For ex­am­ple, Eu­gene Bowen, 51, of Sal­is­bury stood in a sev­enth-floor court­room as Judge Stephanie A. Gal­lagher out­lined a po­ten­tial 20-year prison sen­tence for rack­e­teer­ing con­spir­acy and for con­spir­acy to dis­trib­ute and pos­sess with in­tent to dis­trib­ute drugs.

Apre­trial ser­vices of­fi­cial said Bowen has five chil­dren, in­clud­ing one co-de­fen­dant, Or­lando Bowen, 25, an ECI in­mate. Eu­gene Bowen was re­leased pend­ing trial.

Elvia Hall, 46, of Bal­ti­more, an­other ac­cused “fa­cil­i­ta­tor,” stood with her hands be­hind her back as Gal­lagher ad­vised her of her own drug and con­spir­acy charges. Hall’s son, Michael An­drews, a 27-year-old in­mate at ECI, is a co-de­fen­dant.

Hall was al­lowed to re­turn home un­til her trial. At­tor­neys for Bowen and Hall de­clined to com­ment on the case.

Prose­cu­tors said they be­gan their in­ves­ti­ga­tion in 2013 when a cor­rec­tions of­fi­cer came for­ward with in­for­ma­tion about the al­leged con­spir­acy.

Prose­cu­tors noted their ex­ten­sive use of wire­taps in the case. They cited as one ex­am­ple a recorded con­ver­sa­tion be­tween two de­fen­dants af­ter a cor­rec­tions of­fi­cer was ar­rested in May.

“I hope it ain’t noth­ing like, re­mem­ber did you see on the news what hap­pened down [the Bal­ti­more City De­ten­tion Cen­ter] out here?” Apryl Robin­son, a for­mer cor­rec­tions of­fi­cer from Bal­ti­more, al­legedly said dur­ing the call. “’Bout a year maybe 2 years ago, it was a BGF­dude he was pretty much do­ing the same thing, the whole time like some­body was lis­ten­ing on the con­ver­sa­tion, some­body was telling pretty much. It was a whole, like, what’s go­ing on now, but it was over city jail.”

Rosen­stein said that the al­leged con­spir­acy con­tin­ued at ECI de­spite the 2013 in­dict­ments at the city jail shows the lure of such high-pay­out en­ter­prises.

Prose­cu­tors said the “go­ing rate” for cor­rec­tions officers to smug­gle con­tra­band into ECI was $500 per pack­age. The drugs — in­clud­ing heroin, co­caine, buprenor­phine, and MDMA, more com­monly known as “molly” — were then sold for far more than their value on the streets, prose­cu­tors said. In­mates used con­tra­band cell­phones to make pay­ments through PayPal.

One in­mate ad­mit­ted to pay­ing cor­rec­tions officers $3,000 a week to smug­gle in con­tra­band, prose­cu­tors said. An­other said he “aimed to make $50,000 be­fore he was re­leased,” prose­cu­tors said.

De­spite in­creased se­cu­rity mea­sures at state prisons fol­low­ing the 2013 case, officers were able to con­ceal items in their crotches, hair, un­der­wear or in san­i­tary nap­kins, prose­cu­tors said.

Rosen­stein said se­nior-level of­fi­cials at the prison were not im­pli­cated, and had been work­ing to root out the cor­rup­tion. Moyer said he took his po­si­tion in Gov. Larry Ho­gan’s ad­min­is­tra­tion specif­i­cally to bring an end to such crim­i­nal op­er­a­tions.

Ho­gan, in a state­ment, called the in­dict­ments “a clear vic­tory in the fight against cor­rup­tion.”

Moyer said there are other cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions at cor­rec­tions fa­cil­i­ties in the state. He said he is con­sid­er­ing en­hanc­ing se­cu­rity to address any gaps iden­ti­fied in the ECI in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

State Sen. James Mathias, a Demo­crat who rep­re­sents Som­er­set, Wi­comico and Worces­ter coun­ties, sat on the leg­isla­tive task force formed af­ter the city jail scan­dal was ex­posed.

“I’m very dis­ap­pointed to hear that that’s been go­ing on here,” Mathias said. “It’s deeply un­for­tu­nate that this is a re­al­ity, but, I would rather know about it and be able to rem­edy it, rather than not.”

Lax hir­ing stan­dards were sin­gled out as a ma­jor fac­tor in the Bal­ti­more City De­ten­tion Cen­ter case. The Gen­eral As­sem­bly passed leg­is­la­tion re­quir­ing that cor­rec­tions ap­pli­cants pass polygraph tests be­fore they may be hired.

Moyer said he sup­ports the test­ing, but it has cre­ated a ma­jor ob­sta­cle to hir­ing. The state has about 700 va­cant of­fi­cer po­si­tions.

The union that rep­re­sents em­ploy­ees at Mary­land’s prisons said the short­age of cor­rec­tional officers has it­self led to dan­ger­ous con­di­tions — with officers fa­tigued and stressed from work­ing over­time — and that the state needs to com­mit to hir­ing more.

“Our officers want to stand with peo­ple with the ut­most in­tegrity and safety, to make sure that they have safe work­ing con­di­tions in a very dan­ger­ous job,” said Pa­trick Mo­ran, pres­i­dent of the lo­cal AFSCME coun­cil. “We want to make sure that the depart­ment is hir­ing an ad­e­quate num­ber of peo­ple to make sure that there are enough eyes and ears on the ground.”


Re­tired Sgt. John Peck, with fi­ancee Jes­sica Paker at his side, speaks about his trans­plant Wed­nes­day in Bos­ton.

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