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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Washington

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Monroe Prison Guard Charged with Extortion and Attempted Drug Trafficking

Took Bribes to Smuggle Contraband into State Prison

          A prison guard at the Washington State Monroe Correctional Complex was arrested at the prison today on a federal complaint alleging he accepted bribes for smuggling contraband into the prison, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.  MICHAEL W. BOWDEN, 31, of Everett, Washington is charged with three counts of extortion under color of official right and one count of attempted distribution of methamphetamine.  The arrest follows a six month FBI investigation.  BOWDEN will make his initial appearance on the criminal complaint in U.S. District Court in Seattle at 2:00 PM tomorrow, September 29, 2016.

            “Our state prisons are no place for illegal drugs and other contraband,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.  “The Washington State Department of Corrections and the FBI have worked diligently to uncover sources of contraband flowing into the Monroe Correctional Complex.  This arrest should send a clear message that anyone involved in smuggling prohibited items into our state prison system will face serious consequences for their criminal conduct.”

            According to the criminal complaint, the Department of Corrections Intelligence and Investigations Unit asked the FBI to become involved in the investigation of contraband smuggling in December 2015.  Using confidential sources inside and outside the Monroe Correctional Complex, agents determined BOWDEN was accepting bribes of up to $1,000 to smuggle contraband into the prison.  On three different occasions between July and September 2016, BOWDEN smuggled tobacco, a SIM card, and what he believed was methamphetamine into an inmate at the prison.  In each of those three instances, the inmate turned the contraband over to investigators. 

            “Prison officials and staff abusing their authority betrays the public’s trust and threatens the integrity of the justice system,” said Special Agent in Charge Jay S. Tabb, Jr., of the FBI’s Seattle Field Office.  “The FBI launched a Prison Corruption Initiative in 2014 to expose criminal conduct by prison officials, particularly contraband smuggling in exchange for bribe payments.  The Washington Department of Corrections is a critical partner in this initiative, and the FBI is committed to working with the DOC to identify those who abuse their trusted positions.”

            “The men and women who serve as dedicated officers within our state’s correctional facilities are devoted to providing safety and security to those incarcerated by the judicial system.  Unfortunately, there are occasionally those who betray our trust in providing the safety we are sworn to uphold and we are committed to finding these bad actors so that they don’t compromise security or the integrity of our correctional system,” said Department of Corrections Secretary Richard Morgan.  “We appreciate the strong partnerships we have with our fellow law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, in investigating and purging these individuals for whom we have zero tolerance so that we can maintain the safe and secure facilities expected of us by the law and our citizens.”           

            Extortion under color of official right is punishable by up to twenty years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  Attempted distribution of methamphetamine is punishable by up to twenty years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.  These are maximum possible sentences that could be imposed on individual counts in this case.  They are not a statement of what the United States will recommend if the defendant is convicted, nor do they reflect the impact of the United States sentencing guidelines and other applicable law on any term of imprisonment.

            The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations.  A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

            The case was investigated by the FBI in partnership with the Washington State Department of Corrections Intelligence and Investigations Unit.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Justin Arnold.

Public Corruption
Updated September 29, 2016