Antoine Fordham led a busy double life, prosecutors say, as a sergeant in a state prison by day and officer in the ruthless Crips street gang after work.
On the Baltimore streets, he managed Crips drug dealers and directed the gangsters to protect their turf by gunning down rivals, prosecutors say. They say Fordham, 31, ran his chapter of the Crips inside prison too, presiding over a sophisticated operation to smuggle in drugs and cellphones.
“He was basically running operations for the 8-Trey Crips in the northeast section of Baltimore after work, then going into work and providing direction to many of the inmates,” said Don Hibbert, who runs the Baltimore office of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Fordham and 24 others — civilians, inmates, even another prison guard — have been indicted on charges of attempted murder, gang participation, prison smuggling and misconduct in office. A 10-month wiretap investigation into the gang was revealed Thursday by state officials.
Fordham’s attorney, Lawrence Rosenberg, declined to comment.
The corruption case is the latest blemish for a department of nearly 6,000 officers who run Maryland’s 24 prisons and detention centers.
Last year, federal agents indicted dozens of corrections officers and inmates on charges of 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 the largest prison corruption case in Maryland history.
Another federal investigation discovered that the Black Guerrilla Family gang had seized control of the Baltimore City Detention Center in 2013. Inside, powerful gang members dined on shrimp, sipped Grey Goose vodka and puffed cigars, all the while extorting fellow prisoners and ordering attacks on witnesses. At least 40 people have been convicted in the case.
“Everybody knows how long corruption has existed in this department. It’s because we’ve hired bad people,” Stephen Moyer, secretary of the Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services, said Thursday. “We’re not going to let bad people work on the inside and tarnish this badge.”
The latest corruption scandal centers on Fordham, a prison guard since 2006, who worked inside the Jessup Correctional Institution. There, he ordered an attack on a former Crips member who Fordham learned was gay — a violation of the gang code, prosecutors wrote in an indictment. The prisoner was stabbed more than 30 times but survived.
Fordham and his fellow corrections officer, Phillipe Jordan, 38, smuggled into the Jessup prison cigarettes, cellphones and Suboxone, a drug to treat opioid addiction, prosecutors wrote in the indictment. Inmates paid exorbitant amounts for the contraband, often using contraband cellphones to send money by PayPal.
Fordham “bragged about how easy it was to carry out Crips activity,” Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said.
Fordham was arrested Tuesday. He remains detained and faces 35 criminal charges, including supervising a criminal gang, smuggling contraband and attempted murder.
Jordan was arrested Wednesday and released on bail. He did not return a message, and online court records did not list his attorney.
Fordham earned a salary of about $50,100; Jordan, $46,200. Both officers are suspended without pay.
Prosecutors say the two prison guards conspired with a network of two dozen other people, including 14 prisoners and 10 civilians. Three of the civilians are mothers of inmates.
Outside the prison, the gang chapter known as 8-Trey Crips sold marijuana and cocaine around the Frankford Plaza shopping center in Northeast Baltimore, prosecutors said. They shot rival members of the Bloods gang who encroached on their turf.
The 26 people indicted face prison sentences ranging from three years to life if convicted.
Last year, Fordham warned one man that only Crips sell drugs in Frankford Plaza, prosecutors say. When the man didn’t listen, someone shot him once in the chest and twice in his leg. The man survived, and Fordham was charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit the murder.
After police arrested one Crips member, Fordham said he wanted revenge during a recorded phone call in April, prosecutors wrote.
They said he was discussing retaliation with James Careton, 28, a Jessup prisoner and another Crips chief. Careton now faces 19 charges, including conspiracy to participate in a criminal gang and attempted murder. Online court records did not list his attorney.
Careton, too, spoke of retaliation, prosecutors say.
“Catch one of those b— sitting in the shop or sitting in their car … walk straight down. Give ‘em everything they asking for,” he allegedly said.
Fordham was recorded in another call last year, allegedly boasting of his success as a Crips chief.
“This sh— is easy,” he allegedly said. “The route I’m going, they gonna have to build a statue out there with my face on it.”