Maryland has added to a growing list of prison corruption cases with today’s indictments of 20 individuals, including a half-dozen corrections officers or staffers, accused of running a smuggling ring at the Jessup Correctional Institution in Anne Arundel County.
Law enforcement officials today announced the arrests of 19 people, plus the indictment of one who Robert Hur, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, said remains at large and, “we believe, not within the United States.” (“We are working on it,” he added.)
In addition to the COs and prison staff, the indicted include seven inmates and seven “outside facilitators.”
Prison staff were allegedly taking bribes from inmates since 2014 to smuggle drugs, cell phones, flash drives and tobacco into the jail, at times bringing the items from their cars into the prison after going on break. They were able to dodge security screenings, Hur said, “by hiding it in their hair, their clothing, their underwear and inside their bodies.”
The substances exchanged included heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, ecstasy, Suboxone, weed and K2, a dangerous synthetic form of cannabis, officials said. Inmates and facilitators on the outside paid officers, staff and contractors with cash, money orders, prepaid debit cards and other electronic means, at times using the smuggled cell phones to compensate them from inside the jail. They were then able to sell the drugs marked up from street prices, such as $50 for a Suboxone strip that would go for $10 on the street level.
There were also sexual relationships at play, similar to the 2013 Baltimore prison corruption case that prompted Gov. Larry Hogan to close the city jail, in which Black Guerrilla Family members infiltrated the prison and traded drugs, money and sex (and, infamously, impregnated multiple female guards in the process).
In this case, some corrections officers and staff similarly developed relationships with inmates, Hur said.
One officer, 50-year-old Owen Nesmith of Baltimore, is separately accused of sexually assaulting several of them between 2005 and 2017, and threatening to kill or even keep one of them from getting parole with false accusations. “These assaults were yet another violation of his duties to do his job professionally and with integrity,” Hur said.
The broader conspiracy announced today began in 2014 and ended today, federal prosecutors said.
Assistant Special Agent in Charge Alfred Watson, from the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office, said the investigation began in 2017, and involved working with multiple agencies and using wire taps and other tools.
“Ultimately, we were able to root out corruption and identify corruption at various levels of the correctional facility,” Watson said.
This case adds to a growing list of racketeering cases in Maryland’s jails from the last decade. In addition to the 2013 city jail case, there was the 2016 federal indictment of 80 people at Maryland’s Eastern Correctional Institution on the Eastern Shore , and the 2018 state prosecutors’ indictments of 18 individuals at the same Jessup prison last year.
Michael Zeigler acting secretary of Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said this latest case in Jessup “bring[s] the number of officers, inmates and citizen accomplices indicted for prison corruption in Maryland to close to 200.”
Gov. Larry Hogan remarked on the case via Twitter, touting that figure of “nearly 200” prison corruption-connected indictments since he took office.
Let me make it very clear: we have absolutely no tolerance whatsoever for corruption of any kind in our state prison system, or anywhere else in state government. Those who abuse the public trust will be brought to justice, and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) April 16, 2019
Nesmith faces life in prison for deprivation of rights under the color of the law and other charges. Nineteen of the 20 individuals charged face up to 20 years in prison for racketeering, and some face decades more for drug possession and conspiracy offenses.
The full list of everyone indicted is below.
Owen Nesmith, correctional officer lieutenant, 50, of Baltimore
Patricia McDaniel, correctional dietary officer, 26, of Baltimore
Janel Griffin, correctional officer, 40, of Baltimore
Robert Doggett, case manager employee, 53, of Baltimore
Ricky McNeely, contract exterminator, 39, of Baltimore
Joseph Nwancha, contract nurse, 39, of Baltimore
Corey Alston, a.k.a. “C,” 29
Jerrard Bazemore, a.k.a. “Tic,” 34
Irving Hernandez, a.k.a. “Irvin”, 25
Todd Holloway, a.k.a. “J,” 34
Schvel Mack, a.k.a. “Weezy” and “L Weezy,” 29;
Larnell Megginson, a.k.a. “Julio,” 38
Tavon Price, a.k.a. “Tay,” 35
Aldon Alston, 55, of Baltimore
Ashley Alston, 28, of Baltimore
Tyirisha Johnson, 23, of Baltimore
Jamia Lawson, a.k.a. “Mia,” 27, of Baltimore
Jerrell McNeill, a.k.a. “Rell,” 35, of Baltimore
India Parker, 33, of Parkville
Lekeah Pendleton, a.k.a. “Keah,” 40, of Catonsville
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