Former Contract Nurse Sentenced to 30 Months in Federal Prison for Participation in a Racketeering Conspiracy at Maryland Correctional Institution Jessup
Conspired with Inmates and Outside Facilitators to Smuggle Contraband Into Prison
Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis sentenced former Contract Nurse Joseph Nwancha, age 41, of Baltimore, yesterday to 30 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for a racketeering conspiracy charge related to his participation in a scheme to smuggle contraband into the Maryland Correctional Institution Jessup (MCIJ), including narcotics, tobacco, and cell phones.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; and Secretary Robert L. Green, of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
According to court documents, MCIJ was a medium-security prison in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, that housed approximately 1,100 male inmates, with 262 custody staff or Correctional Officers (COs) and 52 non-custody staff, including case management, medical, and administrative staff.
As detailed in his plea agreement, Nwancha conspired with inmates and individuals outside the facility who obtained and packaged contraband, including, suboxone strips, K2, tobacco, pills and cell phones, to smuggle into MCIJ in exchange for bribe payments. Nwancha was regularly the on-duty nurse during the evening and overnight shifts at MCIJ. Because of the nature of his employment, Nwancha had the opportunity to have contact with inmates in private without other prison employees or inmates observing the interactions.
Beginning in September 2017, inmate Corey Alston began bribing Nwancha to bring contraband into MCIJ. On September 19 and September 20, 2017, via text message, Alston’s sister, Ashley Alston, and Nwancha discussed bribe payments. Ashley Alston told Nwancha that she had the “$200 he owe” and Nwancha responded that he was expecting $1,000 in addition to the $200 and wanted it deposited in his bank account. On September 22, 2017, Ashley Alston met with Nwancha to give him money. According to his plea agreement, over the course of his association with Alston, Nwancha agreed to smuggle contraband cell phones, a pocket knife, tobacco, K2 (a synthetic cannabinoid), and other contraband into MCIJ in exchange for bribe payments. Nwancha admitted that he also conspired with other inmates, including Irving Hernandez, to smuggle contraband, including K2, narcotics, tobacco, and cell phones into the facility in exchange for bribe payments.
On November 28, 2017, Nwancha was stopped at MCIJ in possession of approximately 230 grams of K2 intended for MCIJ inmates, including Alston. A cell phone recovered from Nwancha was subsequently searched and revealed numerous text message conversations between Alston, Hernandez and Nwancha discussing bribe payments and smuggling contraband into MCIJ. The next day, Nwancha booked a flight and left the country to travel to Dublin, Ireland. He remained out of the country until his arrest and extradition.
Inmate Corey Alston, a/k/a “C,” age 29, pleaded guilty to the racketeering conspiracy and was sentenced to six years in federal prison. Inmate Irving Hernandez, age 27, also pleaded guilty to the racketeering conspiracy and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 26, 2022 at 11:00 a.m.
This case arose from the efforts of the Maryland Prison Task Force, coordinated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and comprised of local, state, and federal stakeholders that meet regularly to share information and generate recommendations to reform prison procedures and attack the gang problem that has plagued Maryland in recent years. The work of the Task Force previously resulted in the federal convictions of more than 78 defendants, including 16 correctional officers, at the Eastern Correctional Institution, and 40 defendants, including 24 correctional officers, at the Baltimore City Detention Center.
“Contraband is dangerous to our employees and the incarcerated population, endangering the safety and security of our correctional facilities," said DPSCS Secretary Robert Green. "Our detectives worked with federal agents to track this individual down overseas to make certain that he faced the consequences for his actions, and we will continue to pursue accountability for those engaged in criminal activity within our correctional system.”
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended the FBI and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services for their work in the investigation. The U.S. Attorney expressed appreciation to the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, whose staff initiated the MCIJ investigation and have been full partners in this investigation. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean R. Delaney, who is prosecuting this case.
For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.
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