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Baltimore City Prison Scandal

baltimore-city-prison-scandalA massive Baltimore City prison scandal at the Baltimore City Correctional Center netted an indictment of 25 people — including 13 prison guards — on charges of drug conspiracy, money laundering and racketeering, all controlled by a prison gang that was largely in control of the operations of the prison. A later indictment charged an additional 14 correctional officers in the scandal.

The FBI says the defendants conspired with or took bribes from members of the Black Guerilla Family to smuggle drugs, cellphones, and other contraband into the Baltimore City Correctional Center. According to the indictment, four female correctional officers became pregnant (one of them twice) by the gang’s accused ringleader, inmate Tavon White, while two had his name tattooed on their bodies — one on her neck and another on her wrist.”

The conspiracy ran from 2009 through early 2013 when it was discovered by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. During that time the gang operated with near complete impunity.

”In this case, the inmates literally took over the asylum and the detention centers became safe havens for the BGF,” said FBI Special Agent Stephen E. Vogt in a statement. “Law enforcement should not have to concern itself with criminal subjects who have already been arrested and relegated to detention centers.”

The gang leader was Tavon White, 36, who was accused of a 2009 attempted murder and was being held at BCDC awaiting trial. In a transcript of an intercepted cellphone call included in the indictment, he appears to implicate himself as the leader of the gang by asserting that nothing happens within the jail without his approval:

“This is my jail. You understand that? I’m dead serious….I make every final call in this jail…and nothing go past me, everything come to me….Any of my brothers that deal with anybody, it’s gonna come to me. You see what I am saying? Everything come to me. Everything. Before a mother-f—— hit a n—— in the mouth, guess what they do, they gotta run it through me. I tell them whether it’s a go ahead, and they can do it or whether they hold back. Before a mother-f—— stab somebody, they gotta run it through me….Anything that get done must go through me. ”

The name of the gang is the Black Guerilla Family (BGF) and is one of many prison gangs that operate throughout the country. It got its start in the radical movements of the 1960s, and it operates within in many prisons and also on the streets; The BGF has been the dominant gang at the Baltimore facility since 2006.

As stated in the indictment, individuals were paid through Green Dot Money Pak prepaid cards, and gifts of luxury goods for the guards who were working with the gang. For example, officials say White gave corrections officer Jennifer Owens a diamond ring and bought Mercedes Benz, BMW and Acura automobiles for Owens, Katera Stevenson, Chania Brooks and Tiffany Lender — the same guards that had a sexual relationship with White. These relationships, the indictment says, were used to influence the women who in turn helped the smuggling operation.

In additon, eight other correctional officers performed duties ranging from smuggling contraband into the prison to standing lookout while the guards had sex with inmates. All of the 13 correctional officers accused in the indictment are female.

The conspiracy was terminated when 30 outside Maryland correctional officers and federal agents carried out surprise searches of inmate cells, unearthing drugs including oxycodone, benzodiazepines, hydrocodone and marijuana.

The 25 indicted are charged with racketeering, drug trafficking, extortion, bribery and money laundering. The defendants face a maximum 20 years imprisonment if convicted. One suspect, Ralph Timmons Jr., who was not an inmate, was included in the charges, but was killed in a robbery hours before the indictment was made public.

Gary P. Maynard, head of the Maryland public safety department, which administers the BCDC acknowledged the problem that allowed the conspiracy to operate in the first place and promised to make changes. “Everything that happens in this department is my responsibility,” Maynard told The Baltimore Sun. “It’s totally on me.”

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