by Alex Dominguez
BALTIMORE (AP) — Federal prosecutors said Tuesday that 13 female corrections officers, seven inmates and five others with gang ties have been charged with plotting to smuggle drugs, cellphones and other contraband into Baltimore’s jail and other correctional facilities.
According to an indictment, the ring involved sex between inmates and guards that led to four of the officers becoming pregnant, one of them twice, by Tavon White, leader of a gang called the Black Guerrilla Family.
The indictment unsealed Tuesday said that White, who is being held at the Baltimore City Detention Center awaiting trial on a charge of attempted murder, once boasted in a wiretapped phone call: “This is my jail …. I make every final call in this jail.”
In at least one case, a corrections officer stood guard outside a closet at the jail so another officer and an inmate could have sex, prosecutors said in court documents. Some of the female officers even tattooed White’s name on their bodies, according to the indictment.
FBI agent Stephen Vogt said White “effectively raised the BGF flag over the Baltimore City Detention Center,” and the indictment brings that flag down.
The indictment alleges the gang ran the scheme from inside the detention center and charges gang members and corrections officers with conspiracy, drug possession and distribution and money laundering.
Drugs brought into the prison included marijuana, Oxycodone, Xanax, Klonopin and Vicodin, according to the indictment.
The gang was divided into “bubble regimes,” some of which had special functions such as collecting dues. Members were subjected to a code of conduct and sanctioned for breaking the rules through fines, beatings, stabbings and murder, prosecutors added.
BGF has become the dominant gang at the prison complex, where members used the contraband cellphones to arrange drug smuggling and sexual encounters as well as to warn of investigations and order assaults and murders, according to the court documents. One of the 25 charged in the scheme died April 1, one day before the indictment was returned, prosecutors said.
Authorities said imprisoned gang members paid for items, including luxury cars for the corrupt officers, by texting the 14-digit PIN numbers of reloadable prepaid credit cards. The correctional officers were able to avoid contraband screenings by using entrances other than the main entrance where employees are screened, the indictment said.
However, screening policies and procedures at the main entrance were “completely inadequate to prevent smuggling” with female officers concealing contraband in their underwear, hair and internally, according to officials. Corrections officers are also rotated through screening duties, allowing corrupt officers to wait until co-conspirators were assigned to the entrance, the indictment said.
The investigation eventually included a raid by a team that was brought from outside the Baltimore area to prevent inmates from being alerted in advance, officials said.
One of the guards charged, Tiffany Linder, is eight months pregnant with White’s child, authorities reported. A transcript of a wiretap released by the U.S. Attorney’s office shows she let White know of a coming raid.
“I just got a message from (Officer Tiffany Linder) saying that they was going to pull a shake down (prison search) tonight. Let me call all these dudes in my phone and let them know,” White said, according to the transcript.
A telephone call by The Associated Press seeking comment from White’s public defender was not immediately returned. Whether Linder was being represented by an attorney could not be determined.
The indictments are the latest in a series of charges brought against correctional officers and inmates in the past several years.
Gary D. Maynard, secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said 54 employees have been fired over the past three or four years at the Baltimore City Detention Center.
When asked why all 13 were female, Maynard noted that more than 60 percent of the officers in the system are female, adding that women are more likely not to have criminal records and be able to pass tests needed to qualify. Gang members appear to have targeted officers they felt were vulnerable, he said.
Maynard added that policies were being tightened and internal investigations were continuing.
“I think that we will move up the chain of command and people will be held accountable,” Maynard said.
He said all 13 had been suspended without pay and the department was moving to fire them.
Jessica Gresko contributed to this report from Washington.
FLOW OF CONTRABAND–A poster displayed at the U.S. Attorney’s office, Tuesday, April 23, 2013 shows how investigators allege a prison gang arranged for contraband to be delivered to gang members behind bars. Federal prosecutors announced the indictment of gang members and corrections officers on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Alex Dominguez)
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