FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT
AUSA VICKIE E. LEDUC or
MARCIA MURPHY at 410-209-4885
NOVEMBER 9, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
EMPLOYEE CONVICTED OF TAKING BRIBES TO SMUGGLE CONTRABAND INTO FEDERAL PRISON
Baltimore, Maryland - Robb Phillips, age 33, of Cumberland, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to accepting bribes in connection with a scheme to smuggle cigarettes and other contraband into the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland (FCI-C), announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.
“Robb Phillips abused his authority as a correctional officer by smuggling tobacco into a federal prison and selling it for a large profit. He violated his oath and turned from a law officer to a criminal,” said United States Attorney Rod Rosenstein.
Phillips was hired by the Department of Justice, Bureau of Prisons, as a correctional officer on July 30, 2000 and in November 2001, began working as a teacher in the Education Department at FCI-C. According to the plea agreement, beginning on April 15, 2006, cigarettes were banned from all federal prisons, and were considered contraband. Shortly after the ban took effect, an inmate at FCI-C approached Phillips to smuggle cigarettes into the prison and in exchange he would pay Phillips $50 per pack, or $1000 per carton of cigarettes that Phillips smuggled into the prison. The inmate further stated that he would make arrangements to have Phillips paid outside of the prison. Beginning no later than July, 2006, Phillips smuggled five or six packs of cigarettes into the prison and gave them to the inmate, who paid Phillips $50 for each pack of cigarettes.
Phillips enlisted the help of a female friend to assist him in receiving the bribes by opening a post office box in her name in order to receive money orders that would also be in her name. Phillips promised to pay the friend for her assistance. The inmate arranged to have Phillips paid outside of the prison by providing Phillips with contact information for associates of the inmates outside the prison. Phillips would contact the inmates’ associates, or have his friend make the contact. In order to avoid detection, Phillips dictated that all payments were to be in the friend’s name. The payments were made through money orders in the friend’s name and sent to her post office box, or Western Union money orders sent to retail Western Union locations in the friend’s name. In either case, the friend would pick up and cash the payment, and give the proceeds to Phillips.
After Phillips received payment, he would purchase cigarettes, and inform the inmate of the date that he would be bringing the cigarettes into the prison. On the arranged date, Phillips would bring the cigarettes into the prison in a large potato chip bag inside his lunch container. Once inside the Education Department, Phillips would put the cigarettes in a computer box in the storage room. Phillips would then stand guard while the inmate entered the storage room and placed the contraband into his clothing.
During the course of the scheme, Phillips accessed the Bureau of Prisons computers without authority in order to monitor the emails and phone calls of inmates involved in the scheme to make sure that they would not reveal the scheme to authorities.
By the end of the scheme, Phillips was smuggling up to 50 packs of cigarettes per week into the prison. Phillips also smuggled snuff, which is also banned, into the prison and was paid $50 per can for the snuff. During the course of the bribery scheme, Phillips received over $14,000 in payments in exchange for smuggling cigarettes and other contraband into the prison.
Phillips faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake is scheduled to sentence Phillips on February 8, 2008 at 9:15 a.m.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the U.S. Department of Justice - Office of the Inspector General for their investigative work. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul E. Budlow, who is prosecuting the case.