Inmate and Fired Correctional Officer Plead Guilty to Extorting Inmate and Family Member
Former Correctional Officer Schemed with Inmate After She was Terminated by Division of Correction
Baltimore, Maryland - Fonda Deneen White, age 41, of Parkville, Maryland, and Jeffrey L. Fowlkes, age 41, an inmate in the Maryland Division of Correction, pleaded guilty today to using the mails to extort money from a Maryland Division of Correction inmate and his family, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.
“I am grateful to the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services for combating contraband cell phones that allow jailed gang members to endanger public safety,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Our ability to prosecute important cases has been enhanced as a result of Secretary Gary Maynard making it a priority to increase the department’s intelligence capabilities.”
According to their plea agreements, Fowlkes is serving a 30-year sentence for murder and handgun charges in the Maryland Division of Correction (DOC). White was a correctional officer with the Maryland Division of Correction from February 9, 2001 to August 12, 2005, when she was terminated from the DOC for having an inappropriate relationship with an inmate (not Fowlkes). Starting sometime before January 2007, White was involved in a romantic relationship with Fowlkes and both referred to each other as husband and wife. Fowlkes lists White as his wife in DOC records. According to her plea agreement, White was aware that Fowlkes was a member of the Black Guerilla Family (BGF). BGF maintains a presence in prisons throughout the United States, and is the most prevalent prison gang in the Maryland prison system. In 2007, Fowlkes was incarcerated at the Metropolitan Transition Center (“MTC”), in Baltimore, Maryland.
According to their statements of fact, a victim of the scheme was a 54 year-old mother of three. The victim’s son was convicted of theft in 2006, and received a five-year sentence to the DOC. In 2007, he was incarcerated at MTC, the same institution as Fowlkes.
In January 2007, shortly after her son was moved to MTC, the victim began receiving calls from Fowlkes and other inmates located at MTC, telling the victim that her son owed money, claiming that the debt was for cigarettes, liquor, or gambling, and that she needed to send the money in exchange for her son’s protection. The victim was afraid for her son’s safety, and she sent the money as directed by Fowlkes. After the first payment was sent, the victim received an increasing number of calls demanding money in exchange for her son’s safety. Fowlkes regularly called the victim demanding money in exchange for the safety of her son.
From January 17, 2007 through April 5, 2007, the victim mailed 27 payments, totaling $7,030 to addresses in Baltimore City, including six payments totaling $4,250 sent to White’s home. All of the payments were sent after the victim received calls from inmates telling her the amount, the payee, and the mailing address for the payments.
At the end of April 2007, the FBI was notified and began an investigation into the extortion scheme. At the direction of FBI agents, the victim stopped making the payments and recorded the calls that she received starting on April 24, 2007. Numerous conversations and voice mail messages were recorded. Fowlkes and other inmates made calls to the victim from inside the prison using contraband cell phones. The victim also received numerous calls from White. White, who said she was calling at Fowlkes’ direction made several calls to the victim to discuss where the payments should be sent, and to inquire as to when the victim would be making a payment.
In addition to the payments received from the victim, investigation showed that from October 2005, through November 5, 2007, White deposited a total of approximately 180 checks, money orders, cashier’s checks, and postal orders into her personal bank accounts, all from prisoner bank accounts and family members of prisoners. The deposits from these payments totaled $16,652.25.
The defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for using the mail to commit extortion. U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson has scheduled sentencing for Fowlkes on August 4, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. and for White on August 5, 2009 at 10:00 a.m.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services - Internal Investigative Unit for their investigative work. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorney Paul E. Budlow, who is prosecuting the case.