An outrageous Baltimore prison gang operation involving corrections officers, drugs, sex and racketeering has resulted in the indictment of 25 people—including 13 female prison guards—and has prompted embarrassed Maryland lawmakers to call for a major investigation into the state prison system.
The indictments charge 13 corrections officers, seven inmates and five alleged co-conspirators with racketeering, money laundering and possession with the intent to distribute.
The indictments allege that the corrections officers helped members of the notorious Black Guerilla Family gang smuggle cell phones, marijuana, prescription pills and cigarettes into the jail to sell to other inmates and make thousands of dollars.
Four corrections officers – Jennifer Owens, Katera Stevenson, Chania Brooks and Tiffany Linder, who are also facing charges – allegedly became impregnated (one of them twice) by inmate Tavon White, who is considered the ringleader of the operation. According to documents, Owens had “Tavon” tattooed on her neck and Stevenson had “Tavon” tattooed on her wrist.
The corrections officers smuggled the contraband in their shoes, which they were able to do because Baltimore City does not require employees to remove their shoes when going through screening, unlike other Maryland corrections facilities.
“This situation enabled BGF members to continue to run their criminal enterprise within the jail and the streets of Baltimore,” said FBI spokesman Steve Vogt.
Authorities seek the forfeiture of $500,000 and other proceeds of the enterprise, including luxury automobiles. White reportedly made $16,000 in one month from the smuggled contraband. As gifts, White allegedly gave Owens a diamond ring and Stevenson, Brooks and Owens all received Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Acura luxury cars.
Gary P. Maynard, head of the Maryland Public Safety Department, which administers the BCDC, vowed to make changes. “Everything that happens in this department is my responsibility,” Maynard told The Baltimore Sun. “It’s totally on me.”
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“It becomes embarrassing for me when we expose ourselves and we participate in an investigation that’s going to show what’s going on in our jails that I am not proud of,” Maynard said.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Prince George’s) sent an email to panel members, saying he wanted to hold a hearing May 8 on “corruption” at Baltimore City Detention Center.
“Obviously, it’s an embarrassing situation for everyone,” House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) told the Washington Post. “We need to get an accounting of how we got to this point. If you believe everything you read, it’s pretty incredible to imagine.”
White, 36, who was accused of a 2009 attempted murder and was being held at BCDC awaiting trial, makes clear that he runs the jail, according to the transcript of an intercepted cellphone call.
“This is my jail. You understand that?” he said during the call. “I’m dead serious….I make every final call in this jail…and nothing go past me, everything come to me….Any of my brothers that deal with anybody, it’s gonna come to me. You see what I am saying? Everything come to me. Everything. … Anything that get done must go through me. ”
According to the indictment, in addition to the guards who had sex with White, eight other prison officers performed duties, including smuggling contraband into the prison, tipping off BGF members about law enforcement “shakedowns,” and standing on lookout while the guards had sex with inmates. All of the 13 corrections officers accused in the indictment are female.
The operation was discovered when 30 Maryland corrections officers from outside BCDC, along with federal agents, carried out surprise searches of inmate cells, discovering caches of drugs including oxycodone, benzodiazepines, hydrocodone and marijuana.