Maryland Man Facing Federal Charges For Fraudulently Obtaining Covid-19 Cares Act Paycheck Protection Program Loan
Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang sentenced former Correctional Dietary Officer Chanel Pierce, age 29, of Pikesville, Maryland, yesterday to 21 months in federal prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release, for a racketeering conspiracy in connection with her work at the Jessup Correctional Institution (JCI), a maximum-security prison that housed approximately 1,800 male prisoners. The conspiracy, which included former correctional officers, inmates, and outside “facilitators,” was centered on bribing correctional officers to smuggle contraband, including narcotics, alcohol, tobacco, and cell phones, into the prison.
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 Pierce’s plea agreement and other court documents, correctional officers (COs) accepted or agreed to accept payments from facilitators and/or inmates or engaged in sexual relations with inmates as consideration for smuggling contraband into JCI. 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, conspirator inmates could purchase Suboxone strips for approximately $3 each and sell them inside JCI for approximately $50 each, or for a profit of more than 1,000 percent.
As detailed in her plea agreement, Pierce conspired with inmate Darnell Smith, a/k/a Hook, Smith’s outside facilitator, Chaz Chriscoe, and others to smuggle contraband, including controlled dangerous substances, such as Suboxone, into JCI and then distribute the contraband to Smith and other inmates. Pierce regularly met with Chriscoe at her residence and elsewhere to obtain contraband for smuggling. Pierce then concealed the contraband on her person, smuggled it into JCI, and distributed it to JCI inmates. Pierce admitted that she did this regularly while employed at the facility.
In exchange for smuggling the contraband, Pierce received thousands of dollars in bribe payments, which were sent to her by co-conspirators on behalf of JCI inmates. The memo line of the payments would often include the name or nickname of the inmate on whose behalf the bribe was made. For example, on April 12, 2019, Pierce received a $500 bribe payment from co-defendant Vonda Bolden along with the message “for Boosie,” who was Bolden’s son, JCI inmate Marshall Hill. Pierce transferred most of the bribe payments to her personal bank accounts and used the funds for her own benefit.
Early on the morning of May 25, 2019, Pierce met with co-defendant Chriscoe at her home and obtained several balloons filled with controlled substances to smuggle into JCI. Pierce then went to work and was stopped by law enforcement as she entered the facility and searched. Law enforcement recovered a concealed purple balloon from Pierce’s person containing Suboxone. A subsequent search of Pierce’s home revealed several more balloons filled with contraband that she intended to smuggle into JCI.
All fifteen defendants charged in this case have pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy, including another former Correctional Office, co-defendant Dominique Booker. Chaz Michael Chriscoe, age 41, of Owings Mills, Maryland, was sentenced to 39 months in federal prison; Inmates Darnell Smith, a/k/a Hook, age 41 and Marshall Hill, a/k/a Boosie, age 30, were sentenced to 63 months and to four years in federal prison, respectively; Dominique Booker, age 45, of Baltimore, Maryland and Vonda Bolden, age 57, of Baltimore, Maryland, are awaiting sentencing.
The U.S. Attorney expressed appreciation to the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, whose staff initiated the JCI investigation and have been full partners in this investigation.
This case is also part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended the FBI and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher M. Rigali, 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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