Two Correctional Officers Plead Guilty to a Racketeering Conspiracy, Admit to Smuggling Contraband Into Maryland’s Federal Pretrial Detention Facility in Exchange for Bribes
One Officer Had Romantic Relationship With Federal Detainee; Another Smuggled Liquor to Second Detainee as a Birthday Present
Baltimore, Maryland – Two Correctional Officers, Darren Parker, age 45, of Baltimore, and Talaia Youngblood, age 35, of Randallstown, Maryland, have pleaded guilty to their roles in a racketeering conspiracy at the Chesapeake Detention Facility (CDF), in Baltimore, admitting that they accepted bribes to smuggle contraband, including narcotics, tobacco, and cell phones, into the jail. Parker entered his guilty plea yesterday and Youngblood pleaded guilty on October 13, 2021.
The guilty pleas were 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 (FBI), Baltimore Field Office; and Secretary Robert Green of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS).
“These corrupt correctional officers endangered the lives of their co-workers and of the detainees entrusted to their care and supervision,” said United States Attorney Erek L. Barron. “The United States Attorney’s Office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to root out prison corruption and prosecute correctional officers who abuse their positions of trust to facilitate and engage in criminal behavior.”
“Even one unethical person or contraband transaction endangers everyone,” said DPSCS Secretary Robert Green. “Our honest employees, and the detainees and inmates we care for, cannot be put in danger.”
According to court documents, CDF is run by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) pursuant to a contract with the United States Marshals Service (USMS) and used solely for the housing of federal pretrial detainees. CDF is a maximum-security prison that houses approximately 500 male and female detainees. There are six housing areas, or “pods” in CDF.
As detailed in their plea agreements, Parker and Youngblood, along with other employees, detainees and associates of CDF, knowingly participated in a conspiracy to smuggle contraband into CDF, including narcotics, cell phones, and tobacco. Parker and Youngblood admitted that they abused their positions of trust as sworn officers of DPSCS by engaging in illegal activities to enrich themselves.
Specifically, Youngblood admitted that beginning in at least November 2017, she smuggled contraband into CDF for multiple detainees, including BB with whom she had a romantic relationship. At the direction of BB and other detainees, Youngblood met with outside facilitators to collect contraband and receive bribe payments, including a cellular telephone that she used to communicate with BB, who was in turn using a contraband cell phone inside CDF. On April 3, 2020, federal investigators executed a search warrant at Youngblood’s residence and recovered 35 grams of marijuana, packaged for distribution, a digital scale, a grinder, and $3,581 in cash. Investigators also recovered a handwritten note from BB, two cell phones, photographs of CDF detainees, including BB, and three handwritten birthday cards from detainees at CDF.
According to Parker’s plea agreement, he admitted that beginning no later than 2018 he smuggled contraband into CDF on behalf of detainee JH. Parker admitted that on February 18, 2019, he smuggled liquor into CDF, which he hid inside a water bottle and delivered to JH as a birthday present. On four separate occasions in early 2019, Parker received bribe payments totaling $1,980 from JH’s outside facilitator via Cash App. On March 10, 2019, Parker met with the outside facilitator near the intersection of North Front and Low Streets in Baltimore and received a black plastic bag containing a cell phone, charger, Suboxone, and tobacco, to be smuggled into CDF and provided to JH. The next day, Parker brought the black bag containing the contraband to work and was interdicted by officers in the CDF parking lot. Parker subsequently admitted to the officers that he intended to deliver the contraband to JH.
The defendants each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the racketeering conspiracy. U.S. District Judge George L. Russell III has scheduled Youngblood’s sentencing for December 21, 2021 and scheduled Parker’s sentencing for January 14, 2022, both at 9:30 a.m.
The U.S. Attorney expressed appreciation to the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, whose staff initiated the CDF investigation and have been full partners in this investigation.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended the FBI and DPSCS for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Peter J. Martinez and Harry M. Gruber, who are prosecuting the 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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