Twenty people have been indicted on racketeering charges in a broad corruption ring that involved corrections officers accepting bribes, kickbacks and sexual favors to smuggle contraband to inmates at a Maryland prison, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
Employees at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup sneaked in drugs, cellphones, tobacco and USB drives, which inmates would sell to others imprisoned at the medium-security facility, according to the indictment that was unsealed this week.
Corrections employees suspected in the smuggling ring hid contraband “in their hair, clothing, underwear and internally” to get past the prison’s security screening, the indictment said. The employees accused in the scheme then delivered the smuggled items to inmates at various locations throughout the facility, including at “stash” locations such as the prison library, the indictment states.
“The indictment details a truly troubling level of corruption that permeated the correctional facility,” Robert K. Hur, the U.S. attorney for Maryland, said in announcing the 11-count indictment.
At least one corrections officer was charged with crimes involving sexual offenses against at least three inmates. The indictment alleges a corrections officer forced an inmate to perform a sex act, telling the inmate that he otherwise would not receive parole.
The scheme, which dated to 2014, created a “culture of corruption and lawlessness inside the prison,” prosecutors said in the indictment filed in federal court in Baltimore.
The latest indictment out of Jessup is part of a larger string of corruption cases involving the Maryland corrections system. Federal authorities in 2016 prosecuted about 50 inmates and officers in a bribery and drug conspiracy case out of the state’s largest prison, the Eastern Correctional Institution on the Eastern Shore. At the Baltimore City Detention Center, also run by the state, more than 40 people were convicted in a similar corruption scheme in 2013. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) later closed the Baltimore jail.
In January 2018, 18 people were indicted in a similar smuggling scheme at Jessup Correctional Institution, a maximum-security facility separate from the prison involved in the case announced Tuesday. All 18 pleaded guilty, capping a two-year-long investigation under the Maryland state prosecutor
J. Michael Ziegler, acting secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said in a statement Tuesday that the latest case brings the number of employees, inmates and citizen accomplices indicted on a charge of prison corruption in Maryland to close to 200.
Hur credited prison officials with cooperating with the investigation, saying that “they share our commitment to rooting out corruption.”
In total, six corrections employees, seven inmates and seven “outside facilitators” were charged in the case unsealed Tuesday.
The employees charged were Lt. Owen Nesmith, 50; officer Patricia McDaniel, 26; officer Janel Griffin, 40; case manager Robert Doggett, 53; contract exterminator Ricky McNeely, 39; and contract nurse Joseph Nwancha, 39.
The inmates charged were Corey Alston, 29; Jerrard Bazemore, 34; Irving Hernandez, 25; Todd Holloway, 34; Schvel Mack, 29; Larnell Megginson, 38; and Tavon Price, 35.
Those accused of procuring and transporting contraband to be smuggled into the prison were Aldon Alston, 55; Ashley Alston, 28; Tyirisha Johnson, 23; Jamia Lawson, 27; Jerrell McNeill, 35; India Parker, 33; and Lekeah Pendelton, 40.