80 people charged in Maryland prison smuggling case
— A federal grand jury has indicted 80 people in connection with a racketeering conspiracy operation at the Eastern Correctional Institution in Somerset County, where correctional officers allegedly smuggled drugs, tobacco, cellphones and other contraband to inmates, who, in return, paid them in monetary bribes or sexual favors, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The two indictments, which were unsealed Wednesday and are the product of a three-year investigation, charge 18 correctional officers, 35 inmates and 27 contractual workers identified as “outside facilitators,” who also allegedly paid correctional officers for drugs and other items, federal
Housing more than 3,300 inmates in two compounds on 620 acres in Westover on the Eastern Shore, ECI is the largest state prison in Maryland, noted Marcia Murphy, a USAO spokeswoman.
Since the medium-security prison opened in 1987, some convicts from Cecil County have served their sentences there. While the indictments list addresses for the charged correctional officers and facilitators — they are not Cecil County residents — the documents identify the charged inmates only by name.
The indictments allege that the correctional officers accepted payments from facilitators and, or, inmates, or engaged in sexual relations with inmates, to smuggle drugs, tobacco, cellphones and other contraband into ECI, according to federal prosecutors.
The “going rate” for a correctional officer to smuggle contraband into ECI was $500 per package, although some charged more and some charged less, prosecutors reported.
Inmates and facilitators paid correctional officers for smuggled contraband in cash, money orders and through PayPal, according to the indictments. Inmates were able to use contraband cellphones to pay correctional officers directly using PayPal from within ECI, the indictments allege. Inmates also received payments from other inmates for contraband through PayPal, often with the assistance of facilitators, according to the indictments.
The indictments allege that the defendants conspired to smuggle drugs into ECI, with the list of trafficked narcotics including heroin, cocaine, marijuana, synthetic marijuana (known as “K2”), ecstacy (Also known as “Molly” and “MDMA”) and suboxone, which is a prescription opiate used to treat heroin addiction.
Other smuggled contraband included pornographic videos, cellphones and cigarettes, according to the indictments.
“The profits made by the inmates by selling contraband in the prison far exceeded the profits that could be made by selling similar items on the street,” Murphy said, adding, “For example, defendant inmates could purchase suboxone strips for $3 each and sell them inside ECI for $50 each, a profit of more than 15 times the purchase price.”
The indictment alleges the nowcharged inmates who had jobs that allowed them to move throughout the housing unit and elsewhere in the prison took orders for contraband from inmates, provided orders to the now-charged correctional officers and delivered contraband to inmates.
In addition to discreetly delivering the contraband to the inmates in cells, clerks’ offices and other spots, correctional officers would leave the contraband for paying inmates in pre-arranged “stash locations,” such as storage closets and laundry rooms, prosecutors explained.
During the investigation, one inmate admitted to paying correctional officers $3,000 per week to smuggle for him, prosecutors said. Another inmate told investigators that he “aimed to make $50,000 before he was released,” prosecutors added.
If convicted, each defendant faces up to 20 years in prison.