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15 officers among those indicted in alleged jail drug ring

The state’s correctional department will be conducting an internal investigation and reviewing its policies after 15 officers were arrested in connection with an allegedly widespread drug ring run by a prison gang, Gary D. Maynard, secretary of the department, said Tuesday.

Left to right, Rod J. Rosenstein, U.S. attorney for Maryland; Gary D. Maynard, secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services; and Baltimore City State’s Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein discuss indictments related to a gang that allegedly operated inside the Baltimore City Detention Center.

An indictment unsealed Tuesday revealed that an intricate gang operation revolving around drugs, sex and money within the state correctional system was made possible by 13 female officers in the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

“Everything happening in this department is my responsibility,” Maynard said. “It’s totally on me. I don’t make excuses.”

The correctional officers were among 25 people indicted in connection with a Black Guerilla Family gang operation to sell contraband within correctional facilities, according to the indictment.

“All cases are bad,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. “One of the things that is particularly disconcerting about this is the corruption.”

The leadership in the Baltimore City Detention Center has been rearranged and 54 employees in the department have been fired over the past several years as a result of the investigation, said Maynard, who said he learned the details of the indictment Tuesday.

Gang members allegedly smuggled drugs like OxyContin, methadone, Xanax, Vicodin and marijuana, as well as cell phones and tobacco past security systems to gang leaders, who then sold them to other inmates. Gang leader Tavon White’s cut for a “slow” month was about $16,000, said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt.

“This is my jail,” White, 36, a.k.a. “Bulldog,” said in a January 2013 wiretapped phone call, according to the indictment. “You understand that? I’m dead serious. … I make every final call in this jail … and nothing go past me, everything come to me.”

The officers were the link between gang members inside the jail and its leaders outside, bringing in the prohibited items.

White had sexual relationships with four of the indicted officers. He impregnated all of them at different points in time, and two have tattoos of his first name on their bodies.

More than 60 percent of the correctional officers in the facility are female, Maynard said, explaining that women make up most of the applicants and generally test well for the positions.

“These particular people did not have a criminal history, and they became the most viable force,” Maynard said.

Correctional officers who smuggle contraband and have sexual relationships with inmates had been unlikely to be punished — those suspected in the past were merely transferred to other facilities, according to the indictment.

“The officers seemed to have some degree of confidence that they would be able to get away with this,” Rosenstein said.

The group was indicted April 2 and was arrested Tuesday. Correctional officer Tiffany Linder, 27, of Baltimore, who is eight months pregnant by White, was given the chance to surrender herself. A Black Guerilla Family member outside of jail, Tyrone Thompson, 36, of Baltimore, was not at his residence Tuesday and is still at-large.

Ralph Timmons Jr. was also charged, but was shot and killed the night before the indictment. Investigators would not say if the incident was related to their investigation

All are charged with racketeering, conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute drugs, and 20 are also charged with money-laundering conspiracy.

Those arrested were arraigned in U.S. District Court in Baltimore throughout the day Tuesday, Rosenstein said.

The Maryland Prison Task Force, a combination of local, federal and state groups, has been investigating the Black Guerilla Family for the past two years.

The indictments are largely result of wiretaps on 12 phones by the FBI over the last year. Investigators said more indictments could be pending.

“This case is insidious,” said Baltimore City State’s Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein. “This case is extremely serious.”

The Black Guerilla Family originated in California during the 1960s and began leaking into Maryland facilities during the 1990s and has been the dominant gang in the Baltimore City Detention Center, Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center, the Women’s Detention Center and the Jail Industries Building since 2006. Though centered in the correctional system, the gang also operates on the streets of Baltimore and throughout Maryland.

“This cancer, the Black Guerilla Family, has impacted and caused lives to be lost in Baltimore,” said Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts.

The gang is organized into units, or “bubble regimes,” by correctional facility and has a code of conduct for which members are “fined” for violating with beatings, stabbings and murders. Some members were given leadership positions, like “Minister of Finance.”

All operations revolved around White, who is scheduled to stand trial Wednesday on state attempted murder charges, Bernstein said.

Gang members would call fellow members outside of jail and place orders on smuggled cell phones, according to the indictment. The outside members would then buy the contraband and give it to corrections officers, who would bring the goods into the facility, hiding the items in their “underwear, hair, internally and elsewhere.”

They also hid contraband in their shoes since state facilities do not require that they remove footwear during the screening process, Vogt said.

The gang members would then sell the goods to members and non-members within the facility. They would then give a percentage of the funds to leaders on the outside through prepaid credit cards.

Once in the jail, the drugs were distributed by “working men,” inmates who had jobs that allowed them to move around the facility.

The gang bribed correctional officers, which sometimes included shares in drug-trafficking profits. White also gave correctional officers he was having sex with the use of a white Mercedes-Benz.

Officers would even alert drug kingpins to canine and cell searches. In February 2013, Maynard arranged for a team of correctional officers outside of the city to search cells along with federal agents. The evidence gathered during that search helped lead to this month’s indictment.