10 plead guilty in prison smuggling scheme, authorities say

Two former correctional officers and eight other defendants have pleaded guilty for their role in a smuggling ring that brought drugs and other contraband into a Jessup maximum-security prison, according to court records and the state prosecutor’s office.

The officers were among 18 defendants indicted earlier this year after a year-long wiretap investigation by state agencies found widespread smuggling into the Jessup Correctional Institution. Six inmates and 10 “outside facilitators” were also charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs, bribery, smuggling contraband and misconduct.

Prosecutors said Tyrone Johnson headed the scheme in which he used his two sons and a third person — his co-defendants — to pay Warren Wright Jr., 43, from Baltimore who is an 18-year corrections veteran, to smuggle drugs into the facility since November 2015. Johnson used family members to deliver drugs and other contraband to Wright at random locations around Baltimore in exchange for hundreds of dollars in cash, prosecutors said.

Johnson had two women manage the proceeds from the drug sales using electronic money transfers, such as Pay Pal and Western Union. Those co-defendants and another inmate at the facility have also pleaded guilty, prosecutors said.

At Jessup, prosecutors said Johnson, 54, was “one of the main sources” of drugs, including heroin, fentanyl and buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone.

Johnson pleaded guilty and received a 20-year sentence. His attorney could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Wright, the correctional officer, also pleaded guilty but is awaiting sentencing, prosecutors said. His attorney declined to comment.

Prosecutors said the other correctional officer charged, Phillipe Jordan Jr., 38, a 12-year veteran from Owings Mills, would receive drugs from others and smuggle them into the facility, and accepted $2,000 in bribes. His attorney, Warren Brown, said Jordan also pleaded guilty to bribery charges and is awaiting sentencing.

“It’s just unfortunate because everyone who knows him thinks highly of him,” Brown said. “So many of these people are in financially depressed circumstance and succumb to temptation.”

Jordan was using the money to help pay tuition for his daughter’s private school education in Baltimore, Brown said.

The case was highlighted by Gov. Larry Hogan, state prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt and Maryland Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services Stephen T. Moyer in January as an effort to crack down on illegal contraband entering state prison facilities. The indictments follow several high-profile cases in Maryland, including a federal investigation that found the Black Guerrilla Family gang had seized control of the Baltimore City Detention Center in 2013.

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