BALTIMORE, Md. — A federal grand jury has indicted 20 people for a racketeering conspiracy at the Maryland Correctional Institute in Jessup.
According to the indictment, the 20 individuals – including correctional officers, employees, contractors, outside facilitators, and inmates – played a role in an overall conspiracy involving bribing and smuggling contraband.
The indictment says individuals paid bribes in the form of cash, money orders, Green Dot cards, and PayPal to correctional officers to smuggle contraband such as drugs, unauthorized flash drives, tobacco, and cell phones into the prison.
In an effort to expand their criminal operations, officials allege that correctional officers subject to security screenings were able to hide contraband in their hair, clothing, underwear and in some cases inside their body to bring the smuggled items in the prison. They say they even went as far as going into their cars during shift breaks to retrieve more contraband to bring inside the facility. The accused correctional officers would then deliver the smuggled items to inmates in hiding or through pre-arranged “stash” locations.
The indictment also alleges that inmates who had jobs that allowed them to move throughout the housing unit and areas in the prison, also known as “working men,” took orders for contraband from inmates, provided orders to the corrupt COs, employees, and contractors, and delivered contraband to inmates.
Along with the conspiracy shake down, officials reported during a news conference on Tuesday that some officers and staff have been accused of engaging in improper sexual relationships with inmates. One correctional officer, Owen Nesmith, age 50, is accused of sexually assaulting several inmates at the correctional institute between 2005 and 2017. The indictment alleges that Nesmith would threaten inmates by telling them he would cause injury or even death in an effort to sexually assault them.
VIEW NEWS CONFERENCE BELOW:
If convicted, 19 defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for racketeering. Nine defendants face up to 20 years in prison for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute drugs, and three defendants face up to 20 years in prison for possession with intent to distribute controlled substances.
Nesmith faces a maximum of life in prison for deprivation of rights under color of law for threatening death or serious bodily injury, one year in prison for the other two counts, and a maximum of five years in prison for making false statements.
“One of the FBI’s top priorities continues to focus on the detection of corruption,” said FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Brian Nadeau. “Today’s arrests are the result of the seriousness the FBI takes regarding unlawful actions conducted by public servants who use their position to enrich themselves.”
In 2013, 44 individuals from the Baltimore City Detention Center were indicted for a similar racketeering conspiracy case that resulted in 40 convictions including 24 correctional officers. And in 2017, 84 people from the Eastern Correctional Institution in Somerset County were indicted on a conspiracy case that included 16 correctional officers.
Governor Hogan released a statement on the indictments that were made public:
Let me make it very clear: we have absolutely no tolerance whatsoever for corruption of any kind in our state prison system, or anywhere else in state government. Those who abuse the public trust will be brought to justice, and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. As part of a racketeering conspiracy, bribes were being paid to correctional officers to bring illegal narcotics and contraband into the prison. The number of people indicted for prison corruption in Maryland is now nearly 200 since I took office in 2015. From day one, our administration has been working to root out wrongdoing and corruption no matter where it is taking place, including in our state prisons. We launched a major investigation that led to the uncovering of a widespread drug smuggling ring.
HERE'S A LIST OF INDICTED INDIVIDUALS BELOW:
Owen Nesmith, Correctional Officer Lieutenant, age 50, of Baltimore
Patricia McDaniel, Correctional Dietary Officer, age 26, of Baltimore
Janel Griffin, Correctional Officer, age 40, of Baltimore
Robert Doggett, Case Manager Employee, age 53, of Baltimore
Ricky McNeely, Contract Exterminator, age 39 of Baltimore
Joseph Nwancha, Contract Nurse, age 39, of Baltimore.
Corey Alston, a/k/a C, age 29
Jerrard Bazemore, a/k/a Tic, age 34
Irving Hernandez, a/k/a Irvin, age 25
Todd Holloway, a/k/a J, age 34
Schvel Mack, a/k/a Weezy, and L Weezy, age 29
Larnell Megginson, a/k/a Julio, age 38
Tavon Price, a/k/a Tay, age 35.
Aldon Alston, age 55, of Baltimore
Ashley Alston, age 28, of Baltimore
Tyirisha Johnson, age 23, of Baltimore
Jamia Lawson, a/k/a Mia, age 27, of Baltimore
Jerrell McNeill, a/k/a Rell, age 35, of Baltimore
India Parker, age 33, of Parkville
Lekeah Pendleton, a/k/a Keah, age 40, of Catonsville