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18 people, including two guards, indicted in latest state prison corruption case

Two correctional officers received thousands of dollars in bribes for smuggling drugs and other contraband into a Jessup maximum-security prison — the latest allegations of wrongdoing to unfold at a Maryland correctional facility, according to multiple indictments announced Thursday by the governor and the state prosecutor’s office.

The officers were among 18 people indicted in the widespread smuggling case, which also includes inmates and civilians. Gov. Larry Hogan and state prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt said the recent indictments were the result of a year-long wiretap investigation by state agencies into the Jessup Correctional Institution

“We will not let depraved criminal behavior of the few tarnish the great work of the other nearly 6,000 dedicated officers who are honest, hardworking and serve the citizens of our state with distinction each and every day,” Hogan said at a news conference inside the the Jessup facility.

The two correctional officers are Warren Wright Jr., a 43-year-old from Baltimore who is an 18-year corrections veteran, and Phillipe Jordan Jr., a 38-year-old from Owings Mills who is a 12-year veteran. They, six inmates and 10 “outside facilitators” face charges including conspiracy to distribute drugs, bribery, smuggling contraband and misconduct, Davitt said.

The Jessup facility employs about 400 officers and houses 1,800 inmates serving sentences for serious offenses, according to a state corrections spokesman. The investigation was conducted by the Office of the State Prosecutor and the Department of Corrections’ Special Investigative Unit, which was created after recent prison scandals.

“From the first day of our administration, our team has been diligently working to root out wrongdoing and corruption no matter where it’s taking place, including our in our state prisons and throughout our correctional system. We began by immediately shutting down Baltimore city men’s detention center, which had been a black eye for our state for far too long,” Hogan said.

A federal investigation found that the Black Guerrilla Family gang had seized control of the Baltimore City Detention Center in 2013. The case found that gang members enjoyed free rein behind the prison walls, facilitated by guards — four of whom were impregnated. At least 40 people have been convicted in the case. Hogan later closed the facility because of decrepit conditions at the Civil War-era structure.

In October 2016, federal agents indicted 80 people in the largest prison corruption case in Maryland history. Corrections officers and inmates were charged with smuggling heroin, cocaine, cellphones and pornography into the Eastern Correctional Institution in Somerset County on the Eastern Shore. More than 60 people have pleaded guilty.

In November, 25 people — including two prison guards at Jessup, inmates and civilians — were charged after a 10-month wiretap investigation into the Crips street gang.

The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has added additional measures to curb the flow of contraband into its prisons. Last year, the department announced the purchase of additional metal detectors that can detect the smallest pieces of contraband.

Hogan said his administration also has provided funds for additional prosecutors to the state’s corruption unit and investigators to examine prison corruption. He said he also supported a law requiring polygraph tests for correctional officers, and sought criminal justice reforms that reduced the state prison population.

Stephen T. Moyer, Maryland secretary of public safety and correctional services, said Thursday that the efforts of the special investigative unit and resulting investigation show “the commitment the governor and our department have made to go outside the fence” to stop the flow of illegal contraband, which fuels violence within facilities.

The recent investigation resulted in the confiscation of guns, cellphones not much bigger than the size of a quarter, and drugs, including heroin and cocaine. The correctional officers are accused of smuggling drugs such as Suboxone, which Moyer said is the No. 1 type of contraband found at state facilities.

According to the indictments, Wright had been smuggling drugs into Jessup since November 2015 for inmate Tyrone Johnson, 53, who is serving time for murder. At Jessup, Johnson was “one of the main sources” of drugs, including heroin, fentanyl and buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone, according to the indictment.

Wright is charged with 19 counts that include bribery, misconduct, drug possession, and conspiracy to distribute. His attorney, Andrew White, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The 26-page indictment against Wright describes how Johnson would get family members to deliver drugs and other contraband to Wright at random locations around Baltimore in exchange for hundreds of dollars in cash. Johnson did not have an attorney listed in online court records.

The other officer, Jordan, faces 24 counts, including bribery, firearm and drug trafficking, contraband possession. Prosecutors said he would receive drugs from others and smuggle them into the facility, and accepted $2,000 in bribes. His attorney, Warren Brown, declined to comment on the case Thursday.

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