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Feds: Maryland corrections officers 'in bed' with inmates

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Local,Maryland,Crime,Scott McCabe

Twenty-five gang members and their associates, including 13 Maryland correctional officers, have been indicted on federal racketeering and money laundering charges.

The 10 men and 15 women are accused of working for the Black Guerilla Family prison gang, smuggling contraband into Baltimore's jails and using the proceeds to buy luxury cars, diamond rings and pay for gang activities outside the prison walls.

"This investigation revealed the pervasive nature of prison corruption in Baltimore City's Detention Centers," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt. "In this case, the inmates literally took over 'the asylum.' "

The indictment was unsealed Tuesday morning as more than 170 agents and officers made arrests and served search warrants.

One defendant had been killed in a robbery several hours before the indictment was filed, prosecutors said.

Since at least 2009, the indictment alleges, the conspirators engaged in criminal activities, including drug trafficking, robbery, assault, extortion, bribery, witness retaliation, money laundering and obstruction of justice. Prison guards also alerted gang members to law enforcement activities and surprised searches.

The leader of the operations was 36-year-old inmate Tavon White.

"This is my jail," White said on an intercepted phone call. "I'm dead serious ... I make every final call in this jail ... and nothing go past me, everything come to me."

Correctional officers brought drugs, cellphones and other contraband into the prisons through the main entrances. The contraband was handed to gang members who had been assigned as "working men," inmates paid to assist jail management who are allowed to move freely about the facility.

While behind bars, White, the Black Guerilla Family leader, impregnated at least four female correction officers: Jennifer Owens, 31; Katera Stevenson, 24; Chania Brooks, 27; and Tiffany Linder, 27.

"Correctional officers were in bed with BGF inmates," said U.S. Attorney Rod Rosentein.

Owens had "Tavon" tattooed on her neck and Stevenson had "Tavon" tattooed on her wrist.

White allegedly gave Owens a diamond ring and provided luxury automobiles to Owens, Stevenson and Brooks.

On Valentines Day, authorities had to bring in 30 trusted correctional officers from outside Baltimore to join with federal agents and conduct surprise searches, Rosenstein said.

"Ninety-nine percent of our correctional officers do their jobs with integrity, honesty and respect," said Maryland Public Safety Secretary Gary Maynard. "Today's indictment, along with those in the past, show that our department will not stand idly by and let a few bad actors affect the security of our institutions."

smccabe@washingtonexaminer.com

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