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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Maryland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

14 Defendants Face Additional Federal Charges In Alleged Racketeering Conspiracy At Maryland’s Eastern Correctional Institution

66 Defendants That Were Previously Charged Have Pled Guilty or are Scheduled To Plead Guilty

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                    Contact ELIZABETH MORSE

www.justice.gov/usao/md                                                             at (410) 209-4885

 

Baltimore, Maryland – A federal grand jury returned two superseding indictments charging 14 defendants with racketeering at the Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, Maryland. The superseding indictments charged 6 correctional officers (COs), 4 inmates and 4 outside “facilitators,” for their roles in the conspiracy, which allegedly involved paying bribes to correctional officers to smuggle contraband, including narcotics, tobacco, and cell phones, into the prison. The indictments were returned on September 12, 2017, and made public today.

 

The superseding indictments were announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Stephen M. Schenning; Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; and Secretary Stephen T. Moyer of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

 

According to the superseding indictments, the Eastern Correctional Institution (ECI) is the largest state prison in Maryland, operating since 1987 near Westover, in Somerset County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. ECI is a medium-security prison for men built as two identical compounds (East and West) on 620 acres, and housing more than 3,300 inmates. The East and West Compounds are further divided into Housing Units, 1 through 4 in the West and 5 through 8 in the East.

 

The first superseding indictment covers the West Compound at ECI and charges 6 defendants, including 2 COs, 1 ECI inmate, and 3 outside suppliers or “facilitators.” The second indictment covers the East Compound at ECI and charges 8 defendants, including 4 COs, 2 ECI inmates and 2 facilitators.

 

The superseding indictments allege that from in or about 2014, until in or about October 5, 2016, the COs smuggled contraband into ECI, including narcotics, cell phones, pornographic DVDs, and tobacco. These items were distributed by inmates, and the COs managed the proceeds of the sales. The “going rate” for a CO to smuggle contraband into ECI was $500 per package, although some COs charged more and some COs charged less. According to the superseding indictments, inmates and facilitators paid COs for smuggled contraband in cash, money orders, and through PayPal. Inmates were able to use contraband cell phones to pay COs directly using PayPal from within ECI. Inmates also received payments from other inmates for contraband through PayPal, often with the assistance of facilitators.

 

The superseding indictments allege that the defendants conspired to smuggle and traffic in narcotics within ECI, including marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids (otherwise known as “K2”), buprenorphine, commonly referred to as “Suboxone, and other contraband, including cell phones, pornographic videos, and tobacco, in order to expand their criminal operations. Inmates acted as both wholesalers and retailers of contraband and in the process made profits that far exceeded the profits that could be made by selling similar drugs on the street. For example, defendant inmates could purchase Suboxone strips for $3 each and sell them inside ECI for $50 each, or for a profit of more than 1000 percent.

 

According to the superseding indictments, although COs and other ECI employees were required to pass through security screening at the entrance to ECI, defendant COs were able to hide contraband on their persons. Further, COs took breaks during their shifts and returned to their cars to retrieve contraband. Once the COs had the smuggled contraband inside the facility, they delivered it to: inmates in their cells; clerks’ offices, which were private offices within each housing unit where an inmate clerk worked; the officers’ dining room where officers could interact with inmate servers and kitchen workers; and pre-arranged “stash” locations like staff bathrooms, storage closets, laundry rooms, and other places where contraband could be hidden and then later retrieved by inmates.

According to the superseding indictments, the defendants who were members of gangs sought and received contraband and payment from inmates who were not members of gangs in order to receive protection for their contraband trafficking activities.

Each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the racketeering conspiracy, and for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute drugs.

 

An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.

 

The Acting U.S. Attorney expressed appreciation to Secretary Moyer whose staff initiated the ECI investigation and who has made the full resources of the DPSCS available to assist the three-year investigation.

 

United States Attorney Schenning commended the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, the Baltimore Police Department, and Maryland State Police for their work in the investigation. Mr. Schenning thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leo J. Wise, Robert R. Harding, and Daniel C. Gardner, who are prosecuting this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case.

 

West Compound Indictment

 

Correctional Officers:

Rozlyn Bratten, age 32, of Snow Hill, Maryland; and

Kimberly Rayfield, age 38, of Crisfield, Maryland.

 

Inmates:

Ternell Lucas, age 43; and

Demario King, age 38.

 

Facilitators:

Leondrus Higgins, age 30, of Salisbury, Maryland; and

Chavia Savage, age 24, of Salisbury and Baltimore.

 

East Compound Indictment

 

Correctional Officers:

Sherima Bell, age 38, of Pocomoke, Maryland;

Jocelyn Byrd, age 40, of Salisbury;

Jessica Vennie, age 28, of Crowley, Texas; and

Robert Waters, age 33, of Salisbury.

 

Inmates:

Sean Smith, age 26; and

Alvin Williams, age 36.

 

Facilitators:

Eugene Bowen, age 52, of Salisbury, Maryland; and

Dameshia Vennie, age 35, of West Palm Beach, Florida.

 

 

 

Component(s): 
Updated September 13, 2017