BALTIMORE (AP) — In the latest move to root out longstanding corruption in Maryland prisons, state and federal officials announced Thursday the indictments of 26 people, including a correctional officer who served as a high-ranking gang member.
The charges include attempted first-degree murder and smuggling contraband like drugs and cellphones into prisons.
Sgt. Antoine Fordham, a correctional officer whom authorities described as a high-ranking member of the 8-Trey Crips street gang, was the initial target of the probe and among those indicted. The indictment alleges Fordham oversaw much of the gang's drug dealing activity at a Baltimore intersection. Officials say Fordham and other members of the gang authorized or committed acts of violence to protect the gang's turf and maintain gang discipline.
"He told another co-conspirator in a recorded call: 'I'm going to tell you cuz, the route I'm going, they're going to have to build a statue out there with my face on it," Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said at a news conference.
The investigation grew to include additional gang members and another correctional officer, Phillipe Jordan, and other co-conspirators who authorities said were running a large-scale, contraband-delivery operation in Maryland correctional facilities, including Jessup Correctional Institution.
"Gangs are a blight on any community in which they operate. Not only were they involved in a drug-related shooting on the streets of Baltimore, but they also imported violence, drugs and other contraband into the prison system," Frosh said.
Larry Rosenberg, an attorney for Fordham, declined to comment, saying it was early in the case and he had not yet seen all of the information in the allegations against his client. Warren Brown, an attorney for Jordan, also declined to comment, though he said his client doesn't appear to be a gang member.
Ten of the other indicted co-conspirators were described as outside facilitators, including the mothers of three of the inmates.
The gang committed acts of violence behind bars as well, the indictment alleges. During the investigation, Crips leaders, including Fordham, allegedly ordered an attack on an incarcerated former Crips member, who was stabbed more than 30 times but survived. Two other co-conspirators also allegedly were in a physical altercation with correctional officers who were trying to seize contraband, including drugs, it said.
The case is part of an effort to root out corruption spanning years in Maryland prisons.
A 2013 case at a state-run jail in Baltimore led to indictments of dozens of people. In that high-profile case, a Baltimore City Detention Center inmate impregnated four female corrections officers while running a sophisticated criminal organization that smuggled in drugs and cell phones and employed guards as gang associates.
Last year, a pair of federal indictments charged 80 people, including 18 prison guards, 35 inmates and 27 civilians in a vast contraband smuggling enterprise that traded drugs, tobacco and cellphones to prisoners for money and sex at the Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover — Maryland's largest state prison.
Stephen Moyer, the secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said other investigations are ongoing.
"We have other cases that are coming, and we're not going to stop until we have pushed every lead that we have about corrupt officers still working for us," Moyer said at the news conference with Frosh and Don Hibbert, assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration Baltimore District Office.
If convicted, the indicted members of the conspiracy face between three years to life imprisonment.