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Attorney General indicts 15, including prison staff member, over alleged contraband conspiracy


Attorney General indicts 15, including prison staff member, over alleged contraband conspiracy

May 25, 2023 | 9:00 pm ET
By Danielle J. Brown
Attorney General indicts 15, including prison staff member, over alleged contraband conspiracy
Andrew Brookes/Getty Images.

Attorney General Anthony Brown announced the indictment of more than a dozen people in connection with contraband smuggling operations at the Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, his office announced Thursday.

The Office of the Attorney General said that 15 people — four outside facilitators, 10 people who are incarcerated, and an RCI staff member — have been indicted for operations that smuggled in drugs, including fentanyl and methamphetamines, as well as other prohibited items, into the prison in Washington County.

Brown (D) said that crimes committed in prisons are “as much a threat to our communities as crimes committed in our neighborhoods and streets,” according to a written statement.

Carolyn Scruggs, secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, also weighed in.

“Anytime contraband is introduced into one of our facilities, it places our staff and the incarcerated in danger. We will not tolerate contraband because it can lead to violence,” she added in a written statement.

The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services notes on its website that penalties for delivering contraband into a correctional facility could include a 3- to 10-year prison sentence, fines from $1,000 to $5,000, or both.

Several of the indicted individuals face multiple counts, including a prison staff member who faces a 14-count indictment and an inmate who faces a 40 count-indictment, which includes charges of possession of fentanyl and methamphetamine with intent to distribute.

The Thursday press release notes that an indictment is an accusation of wrongdoing and that defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

According to the AG’s office, investigations launched in April 2022 concluded that the defendants used a handful of strategies to bring prohibited items into the prison including fentanyl, other drugs, tools, and cellphones.

One incarcerated individual, Akeem Banks, is facing a 40-count indictment for allegedly participating in an operation that brought fentanyl and methamphetamine into the prison through his regular visits to the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore for medical treatments.

Friends and families of RCI inmates left “bundles of drugs and other contraband” in the bathrooms of UMMC, and Banks would bring the contraband into the prison by hiding items inside his clothing, according to the press release.

Banks, two other inmates, and two outside facilitators are charged with multiple count-indictments for the operation.

Another round of contraband operations involved a staff member at RCI who was a “dietary correction officer,” meaning she worked with food preparations within the prison.

Temille Ashby, a 10-year veteran of Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, allegedly smuggled in 158 strips of Suboxone, a medication typically used to diminish opioid use and opioid withdrawal symptoms, for Jamal Brown, an RCI inmate.

“Financial records showed that Ashby had received approximately $16,132 in payments on Cash App,” according to the press release, noting that strips of Suboxone go for $100 each inside prisons.

Jose Tapia, an RCI inmate, allegedly recruited two Baltimore residents to operate a drone that would deliver packages to deliver drugs, cell phones and other electronics into the prison with intent to distribute.

Guy Austin, one of the outside facilitators assisting Tapia, is charged in a 60-count indictment, which includes “charges of contraband conspiracy, possession of controlled dangerous substances with the intent to distribute, and attempt to deliver contraband to a place of confinement.”