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Press Release

Former Correction Officer Convicted In Manhattan Federal Court Of Bribery And Narcotics Offenses In Connection With Rikers Island Inmate Contraband Distribution Ring

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today the conviction of AUSTIN ROMAIN, a New York City Correction Officer, in connection with his receipt of thousands of dollars in cash bribes to smuggle marijuana and other contraband into Rikers Island for inmates. Following a four-day trial before the Honorable Robert W. Sweet, United States District Judge, the jury convicted ROMAIN of bribery and narcotics offenses.

Last month, former Correction Officer Khalif Phillips, who conspired with some of the same individuals as ROMAIN, was sentenced by the Honorable Richard J. Sullivan, United States District Judge, to 36 months in prison after his conviction for narcotics-related offenses.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Our efforts to root out bad conduct at Rikers Island, by individuals and by the institution as a whole, continue. Today, we took another step in the right direction with the conviction of correction officer Austin Romain for taking bribes and conspiring to smuggle drugs into Rikers Island. Holding corrupt officers like Romain accountable for their misconduct is just part of the solution; it is not a substitute for the sweeping, institutional reforms necessary at Rikers Island. We will continue to press forward on both fronts – holding individual bad actors accountable and demanding meaningful, institutional reforms.”

As alleged in the Superseding Indictment against ROMAIN and established by the evidence admitted at trial:

ROMAIN became a Correction Officer in 2007. He was assigned to the George R. Vierno Center (GRVC) and later the Otis Bantum Correctional Center (OBCC) at Rikers Island. On multiple occasions in 2012 and 2013, ROMAIN smuggled marijuana, tobacco, and other contraband into the GRVC and provided it to inmates housed in that facility, who in turn sold it to other inmates. ROMAIN coordinated with the girlfriends of his inmate co-conspirators, who met with him to supply him with marijuana and to pay him for his smuggling activities. ROMAIN accepted thousands of dollars in bribes for the packages that he smuggled in to the GRVC and OBCC.

ROMAIN, 32, of Brooklyn, New York, was convicted on one count of honest services fraud, one count of bribery, and one count of conspiring to distribute marijuana. Romain was acquitted on one count that alleged he had distributed marijuana on a particular date. The marijuana conspiracy count carries a maximum term of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The bribery conviction carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison. The honest services fraud conviction carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the New York City Department of Investigation and the DEA’s New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, which comprises members of the DEA, the New York City Police Department, and the New York State Police.

The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Russell Capone and Martin S. Bell are in charge of the prosecution.

Updated May 15, 2015

Press Release Number: 14-367