Seven officers at the Lorton Correctional Complex were charged yesterday with distributing crack, powder cocaine or marijuana to Lorton inmates.
The six indictments unsealed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria were the result of a six-month undercover FBI investigation that revealed how guards approached inmates to make drug sales and sometimes used beepers to facilitate payoffs arranged outside the compound with inmates' friends and relatives.
U.S. Attorney Henry E. Hudson also alleged that most of the defendants took several bribes, including one instance in which an officer allegedly was paid $1,600 to bring drugs into the Lorton complex. Hudson added, however, that the defendants were not part of a coordinated drug enterprise.
"This is not a unified scheme or conspiracy," Hudson said during an afternoon news conference at his Alexandria office. "What we have here are a number of isolated instances, all occurring at about the same time."
Walter B. Ridley, director of the D.C. Department of Corrections, which runs the Lorton complex in southeastern Fairfax County, said the investigation did not indicate widespread drug abuse by Lorton officers.
"The majority of our employees are outstanding employees, and a small percentage are involved in activities such as these," Ridley said. He added that correctional officials are no different than employees in the private sector, where drug abuse has also proved to be a growing problem.
"The people who work for us are people who come from the local community," Ridley said. " . . . We have anti-drug policies in place, but as you know, there are policies in the larger community and people do slip through to introduce contraband in their homes and workplaces."
Thomas E. Duhadway, director of the FBI field office in Washington, said the investigation was launched because inmates appeared to have continual access to illegal drugs. "The use of these narcotics leads to violence and other problems in the institution; therefore it just demanded that it be addressed," Duhadway said.
The Washington Post reported this month that guards at the D.C. jail had frequently used illegal drugs, including crack, in the facility. Corrections officials could not recall whether a D.C. jail or Lorton officer had ever been charged before with selling drugs to inmates.
The seven Lorton employees named in yesterday's indictments are George Asher, 37, of Dale City; Thomas Blue Jr., 34, of Temple Hills; Walter Edmonds, 29, of Triangle; Marlon Epps, 28, of Capitol Heights; Rigoberto Godoy, 31, of Washington; Angel Jova, 26, of Hyattsville; and Mary Jean Smith, 25, of Oxon Hill. Each is charged with at least three counts, with the charges including possession with intent to distribute and introduction of narcotics into a prison.
Kevin Bernard Harmon, 25, of Washington, a civilian, was indicted with Godoy for possession of marijuana and cocaine.
All the defendants but Blue and Harmon were arrested early yesterday by FBI agents, according to law enforcement sources, and appeared before a federal magistrate yesterday afternoon. They were released on personal recognizance or minimal bonds and ordered to appear for arraignment in U.S. District Court in Alexandria Monday morning. The maximum sentences on conviction of the offenses range from one to 20 years.
Four of the correctional officers -- Asher, Edmonds, Jova and Smith -- were hired for the Lorton staff last year, according to Elin Jones, a prison spokesman. The longest any of the defendants has been employed at Lorton is five years, Jones said.
All but one of the officers is employed at Lorton's modular facility, which Jones described as medium security.
The case of Epps, who is charged with eight counts, reveals how the FBI conducted its probe. Epps allegedly approached an inmate in April and offered to bring him marijuana. As a show of good faith, Epps offered the inmate one marijuana cigarette and gave him a telephone number where he could be reached, according to the indictment.
The inmate, not named in the indictment, was a confidential informant in contact with the FBI, the court papers show. An undercover FBI agent later spoke with Epps, telling Epps he was a friend of the inmate and setting up a bribery payment that took place a few days later at Springfield Mall, the indictment says.
Epps and Edmonds used part of the payment to buy the drugs that Edmonds later delivered to the inmate, according to the indictment.
The indictment alleges that at one point Epps told the inmate he wanted to use his drug profits to buy a Mercedes-Benz. Instead, the government is now seeking to seize a 1985 Audi that officials allege was bought with Epps's profit from the bribery scheme.