13 officers from the Maryland state prison have been indicted for helping a dangerous national gang operate behind bars. The officers allegedly helped with a drug-trafficking and a money-laundering scheme.
In addition, they were involved with cash payments, sex and access to fancy cars, according to federal prosecutors.
The female corrections officers essentially handed over control of a Baltimore jail to gang leaders, prosecutors said. The officers were charged Tuesday in a federal racketeering indictment.
The indictment described a jailhouse seemingly out of control. Four corrections officers became pregnant by one inmate. Two of them got tattoos of the inmate’s first name, Tavon — one on her neck, the other on a wrist.
The guards allegedly helped leaders of the Black Guerilla Family run their criminal enterprise in jail by smuggling cellphones, prescription pills and other contraband in their underwear, shoes and hair. One gang leader allegedly used proceeds to buy luxury cars, including a Mercedes-Benz and a BMW, which he allowed some of the officers to drive.
“The inmates literally took over ‘the asylum,’ and the detention centers became safe havens for BGF,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt, using shorthand for the prison gang’s name.
The indictment, unsealed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, puts the spotlight on the enduring power of gangs in jails and prisons. In particular, prosecutors were highly critical of Maryland’s facilities in Baltimore, with procedures and personnel that were “completely inadequate to prevent smuggling” and lacked “effective punishment.”
The Black Guerilla Family was founded in California in the 1960s but now operates nationwide in prisons and on the streets of major U.S. cities, including Baltimore. It arrived in Maryland’s prison system in the 1990s, according to the Justice Department, and is increasingly involved in narcotics trafficking, robbery, assault and homicides. By 2006, federal authorities say, the BGF had become the dominant gang at the Baltimore City Detention Center.
Gary D. Maynard, head of the Maryland agency that oversees the prisons, appeared at the Baltimore news conference where prosecutors announced the charges, and took responsibility for ongoing problems.