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Four to plead guilty in Eastern Shore prison smuggling case

Four, including a corrections officer, have reached guilty pleas just one month after massive indictment

Four defendants in a sprawling racketeering case at Maryland's largest prison have agreed to plead guilty for their roles, court records show.

The guilty pleas come just one month after the massive case was unsealed. Eighty people, including 18 corrections officers, were charged in the investigation, which found widespread drug smuggling inside the Eastern Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison on the Eastern Shore.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo J. Wise wrote in a status update to the court on Nov. 10 that the government was in the process of providing discovery to defendants and their attorneys. Four defendants had already signed plea agreements, he said, while others wanted to discuss the possibility.

The court docket lists four defendants who are slated for "rearraignments," a hearing where a defendant can change their plea and which typically signals a guilty plea. Among the defendants slated for rearraignments is one correctional officer, Rachelle Hankerson, 26.

The first hearing is scheduled to occur Tuesday, when Miguel Matos, 46, of Fort Washington, will appear in court. Matos has been called a "facilitator" who helped get drugs to a corrections officer who smuggled it inside the facility.

Hankerson, of Salisbury, was described in the indictment as smuggling in drugs for bribes, and the indictment describes a phone call in which Hankerson said she was worried too many inmates knew she was taking part. Her hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

Ramel Chase, 34, of Glen Burnie, who according to the indictment was suspected of distributing Suboxone, is slated for a rearraignment on Thursday. In February and March, authorities say Chase used a contraband cell phone to discuss smuggling of Suboxone and K2, at one point texting another inmate that he had sold $500 worth of contraband.

The fourth defendant slated for a rearraignment is Trina Williams Johnson, 44, of Baltimore, who authorities listed as a "facilitator." Her hearing is slated for December.

jfenton@baltsun.com

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