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Articles Posted in Drug Arrests

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thirteen-bags-of-marijuana-found-in-taxi-cabThis past week two Maryland men were arrested in Indiana for dealing in marijuana after his van was pulled over on Interstate 70 for following another vehicle too closely.  Local sheriff’s deputies allegedly observed several criminal indicators after pulling the vehicle over, which included the odor of raw marijuana and the presence of plant like material on the pants of the driver.  A search of the van took place shortly after the traffic stop, and police discovered 16 cardboard boxes that contained numerous vacuum sealed plastic bags of pot.  Back at the police station deputies weighed the bags and eventually tallied 400 pounds of cannabis.  This large roadside bust resulted in charges for the driver and passenger, who were booked into the county jail and later bonded out.  Both defendants now face potential jail time for charges when they return to court.

The Blog does not typically post about cases that involve drug busts in other states, but since the defendants hail from Maryland we thought it would be an appropriate way to write marijuana related automobile searches, which have been receiving a great deal of attention as of late.  Despite nationwide efforts to legalize marijuana it is still an illegal substance in the majority of states, and remains a controlled substance under federal law.  Therefore, police officers are still actively searching for suspected marijuana traffickers, and will be especially attracted to vehicles with out of state license plates traveling on interstates around the country.  An out-of-state cargo van traveling with two adult male occupants couldn’t be more suspicious to highway patrol officers, so it’s no surprise this vehicle was pulled over.  While it almost certainly will not appear in any official report, this particular vehicle likely caught the eye of the deputy sheriff long before it was involved in the alleged traffic infraction.  Law enforcement officers are legally able to make pretextual traffic stops, which means they can pull a vehicle over for a minor traffic stop with the full intention of conducting a criminal investigation.  It is for this reason that a large percentage of drug busts occur on interstate highways and other major thoroughfares.

In addition to pretextual stops, law enforcement officers in most states are able to search a vehicle upon observing signs indicating the presence of marijuana.  This is especially true in Maryland, where the highest court has unequivocally held that the odor of marijuana justifies the search of a vehicle.  Almost all law enforcement officers, and especially those from the Maryland State Police and the Maryland Transportation Authority police have special training in drug interdiction, which is the process of preventing drugs from reaching their intended destination.  Much of this training includes identifying vehicles that could be transporting marijuana, heroin and other illegal controlled substances.  On top of the list are vehicles traveling with out-of-state license plates or vehicles that are registered to rental companies.  Police officers on Interstate 95 and Interstate 70 are rarely just looking to nail speeders, but rather are searching for their next drug bust.  In this case, the Maryland men seemed destined for law enforcement attention and now they have criminal cases pending in a state with surprisingly lenient marijuana distribution laws.  Unlike in Maryland, the equivalent to possession with intent to distribute cannabis is actually a misdemeanor in Indiana for all first time offenders.  One of the men recently was charged with a drug offense in Baltimore County, but his case did not result in a conviction.  it is unclear whether either defendant has priors in others states.  The Blog will follow this case and others like it, and may post a follow up article in the near future.

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coke4-300x250This week two Baltimore men received federal prison sentences for narcotics distribution, further serving as reminders that the feds are not shy about prosecuting drug cases in Baltimore City.  Neither case seemed especially complex, and both defendants appeared to keep their illegal operations local, but nonetheless the cases ended up in federal court.  Unlike many crimes, drug offenses do not need to be committed on federal property or across state lines in order to be prosecuted in federal court.  The United States Code has strict controlled substance laws, and the feds can choose to prosecute anyone involved with suspected drug dealing.  Normally in Maryland, street level cases are prosecuted in state court by the local State’s Attorney’s Office, but it’s quite a different story in Baltimore City.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecutes a large number of drug and gun cases that would normally be filed in state court, and the two from this week are a classic example.  On July 13, a 41-year-old man from Baltimore was sentenced to 5 years in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute crack cocaine.  This particular defendant was ultimately jammed up for selling cocaine to multiple confidential informants in a particular area of East Baltimore.  The defendant’s DTO or drug trafficking organization was not particularly large but nonetheless caught the attention of the ATF, and ultimately wound up in federal court.  As part of the plea the defendant admitted to conspiracy to distribute more than 28 grams of cocaine, and also admitted to possessing firearms.

Just one day after the sentence was handed down for the 41-year-old defendant, another Baltimore man learned he would be spending the next 4 years in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute heroin, fentanyl and cocaine.  This particular defendant was being investigated by a joint task force led by the DEA, who joined with Baltimore City Police in gathering evidence to support the defendant’s involvement with a street level drug trafficking organization.  Law enforcement officers were ultimately able to secure a search warrant for the defendant’s residence, and recovered 147 grams of a heroin fentanyl mixture, cutting agents and a press containing cocaine.  According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, based on the evidence obtained it was reasonable to conclude that the defendant and his co-conspirators distributed more than to distribute more than 3.5 kilograms of cocaine, as well as heroin and fentanyl.  The 5-year sentence may seem low compared to state sentences for narcotics distribution, but keep in mind that there is no parole in the federal justice system.  Defendants typically serve more than 75 percent of their actual sentences compared to state defendants who are eligible for parole on non-violent offenses after serving 25 percent of their time.  There were a total of 25 defendants indicted in this particular investigation, and 22 have pleaded guilty or been found guilty at trial.  In March of this year the defendant’s alleged source of supply was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the conspiracy.

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heroinbust-300x198This week law enforcement officers from numerous agencies executed eight search warrants in Frederick County and Washington County, which yielded various drugs, cash and multiple firearms.  The warrants were executed at about 4 a.m., which means they were likely of the ‘no knock’ variety that in theory prevents the destruction of evidence and the possibility of suspects preparing for a confrontation with police.  Only two individuals were arrested as a direct result of the warrants, but more arrests will likely follow as police comb through the seized evidence.  A 48-year old man and a 40-year old woman from Washington County are both being held without bail on charges of possession with intent to distribute narcotics and possession with intent to distribute PCP.  The man is also charged with illegal possession of a firearm under Maryland statute 5-622.  This offense is a separate felony that carries a five-year maximum penalty, but unlike Maryland statute 5-621, possession of a firearm in a drug trafficking crime, it does not require a mandatory minimum sentence upon conviction.  The defendant may face additional charges as the case progresses to circuit court, which could include those that carry mandatory sentences.

The law enforcement agencies involved in the execution of the search warrants included the Maryland State Police, the Frederick and Washington County Sheriff’s Offices, the Frederick Police and the Montgomery County Police.  In total, law enforcement seized over $23,000 in cash, over 2.5 pounds of cocaine, four handguns and large amounts of crack, PCP and methadone.  The amount of cocaine seized would clearly be enough to trigger drug trafficking charges, but there is no indication that the cocaine could all be attributed to one individual suspect.  Maryland statute 5-612 targets volume dealers, and provides a 5-year mandatory sentence for anyone convicted of possessing more than 448 grams of cocaine or crack, which is roughly equivalent to one pound.  The threshold is much lower for heroin (28 grams) and even lower for fentanyl (5 grams).  Marijuana, PCP and LSD are also included in the statute, which also carries a potential $100,000 fine upon conviction.

Going back to this specific case, the execution of 8 simultaneous search warrants indicates that this investigation was ongoing for months and likely included hours of surveillance and possibly confidential informants conducting numerous controlled buys.  A controlled buy is a common law enforcement tactic where police observe an informant engage in a drug transaction for the purpose of gathering evidence to use to obtain a warrant.  This is in contrast to a buy-bust, where police immediately move in to make an arrest after a drug deal has concluded.  Buy-busts are rare due to the obvious consequences of burning the CI and also creating a potentially dangerous and unpredictable situation.
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gelcap-300x169A 41-year old Baltimore man recently pled guilty to participating in a drug distribution conspiracy, and he now faces more than a decade in federal prison for his actions.  Based on a recent press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office the defendant is looking at 12.5 years after the government and the defense agreed that a 150-month sentence would be appropriate.  The presiding judge in the Baltimore City federal courthouse will have final say over the sentence, but typically when both sides are in agreement the judge will go along as well.  It is unclear whether the parties entered into a binding agreement under Rule 11(c), but either way the judge would maintain discretion to approve or reject the plea based upon a final calculation of the sentencing guidelines and a review of the presentence report.

According to facts laid out in the plea agreement the defendant participated in a drug trafficking organization or DTO from at least September of 2018 until June of 2019 in Baltimore City.  The defendant also admitted to maintaining a stash house in Baltimore where heroin and crack cocaine were processed and stored.  Law enforcement agencies including the ATF, FBI and the Baltimore Police all participated in the investigation, which ultimately yielded a search warrant for the stash house.  The Anne Arundel County Police also participated to some degree in the case due to the cross proximity of the stash house to Anne Arundel County. Police seized over 200 grams of crack cocaine from the house, but it does not appear that any money or firearms were seized.  It is also not clear whether there were other individuals that were charged along with this defendant, but there had to have been other suspects in order for the government to establish sufficient evidence of a conspiracy.  Conspiracy charges are common in federal court, as it is often easier for the government to prove that a defendant planned and prepared to commit an illegal act as opposed to catching him or her in the act.  Under Maryland state law conspiracy is not a separate enumerated crime, but rather a common law misdemeanor that may be charged in almost any criminal case.

It certainly appears that an agreed upon sentence of 12.5 years for a non-violent drug offense involving far less than 1 kilogram of cocaine and no firearms or weapons would be excessive.  The agreement is a little easier to comprehend when factoring in the defendant’s prior record though.  According to Maryland casesearch, the defendant was convicted of first-degree murder back in 1999 and then narcotics distribution and possession of a firearm in a drug trafficking crime in 2011.  He received 12 years in each of these cases.  The first-degree murder case was resolved by a plea agreement to 12 years in prison, though he also received 12 years for handgun use in a crime in the same case.  These counts could have been run consecutive for a total of 24 years though it is not completely clear.  Either way the defendant has spent most of his adult life in prison, and now will spend another decade behind bars.  Regardless of his prior record, a 12 plus year sentence for mid-level drug trafficking seems unjust, and we can only hope that lawmakers continue to engage in criminal justice reform that reduces a defendant’s exposure in non-violent cases.

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heroindeal-300x157Howard County is known for having one of the best school systems in the state and a relatively low crime rate, so it undoubtedly was surprising when federal agents showed up in force to execute a search warrant of a home in a quiet Ellicott City neighborhood.   The agents were targeting a 31-year old suspect and looking for evidence of drug distribution, and they allegedly found a what they were looking for when the performed the search back in 2016.  According to evidence presented at trial, law enforcement entered the residence as the defendant was in the kitchen with numerous bags of crack cocaine, powder cocaine, digital scales, measuring cups used in the production of crack and two loaded .45 caliber handguns.  During the course of the search, law enforcement officers then found over 70 grams each of cocaine and crack, and close to $10,000 in cash.  Agents also seized two semi-automatic rifles with large capacity magazines and 200 rounds of ammunition.  The defendant was charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime among other felony charges.  Rather than enter a plea of guilty, the defendant elected to roll the dice and go to trial, but it appears from the verdict that he may not have made the best decision.

After a four-day jury trial at the Baltimore City federal courthouse that was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the defendant was ultimately found guilty for possession with intent to distribute more than 28 grams of cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.  The first two convictions carry 5-year mandatory prison sentences that will be imposed consecutively.  Maryland state law and federal law both provide mandatory five-year sentences for possession of large amounts of cocaine, and both also have mandatory sentences for possession of a firearm in a drug trafficking crime.  The defendant will likely be sentenced to more than 10 years in prison and since there is no parole in federal criminal cases he may not be released until at least 2026.  Even if the case was charged in state court the defendant would not have been parole eligible based on the mandatory minimum sentences that must be imposed by the judge. According to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Howard County and Prince George’s County Police Departments helped the FBI work up this case as part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods, which was developed to encourage collaboration between federal and state law enforcement agencies.

Under Maryland law there is no specific offense entitled drug trafficking like there is in Florida, but the term is used whenever a defendant is charged with possession or distribution of a large amount of cocaine, heroin, marijuana or other drug.  Violations of these offenses trigger mandatory prison sentences, but the federal laws can be stricter than Maryland laws when it comes to amounts.  Federal law provides a minimum mandatory penalty for possession of a much lower amount of cocaine base (28 grams) compared to Maryland law (448 grams).  In contrast, Maryland law has a lower threshold for heroin (28 grams) than federal law (100 grams).  Maryland state law and federal law both provide the same mandatory penalty for firearm possession during a drug crime, but many times this offense is wrongly charged by state law enforcement.  The law requires the State to prove a nexus between the drugs and the guns, so if a gun is locked away in a person’s basement it may not be in any way related to the drugs.  A criminal defense lawyer will be able to look at the case in detail to determine what defenses may be available in a drug trafficking case.

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courtroom-898931_1280-300x226Federal law enforcement has made fentanyl a major priority, and last week a 26-year old Baltimore County man was sentenced to a decade in prison for possession with intent to distribute the deadly narcotic.  According to the statement of facts in the guilty plea, a Woodlawn man fled from Baltimore County Police after they tried to initiate a traffic stop.  During the pursuit officers allegedly observed the suspect throwing objects out of his car window as he fled.  Eventually police caught up with the suspect and search incident to arrest produced a digital scale and a baggie with 40 grams of fentanyl.  Had law enforcement stopped there the man would likely have been prosecuted in state court, but a search of his home pursuant to a warrant produced far more incriminating evidence.  Police ultimately discovered 3 kilograms of fentanyl and a loaded .380 caliber handgun.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office stated in its press release that this amount of fentanyl would be enough to kill 1.5 million people.  The suspect was also prohibited from possessing firearms based on a previous drug conviction in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County.  He also had an earlier drug possession conviction in Baltimore City and a probation before judgement for driving on a suspended license.

The facts of the case were not especially unique and from what we can see the defendant was not alleged to have been an interstate drug trafficker, but the federal government still elected to prosecute this case.  For the last several years the feds have picked up gun and drug cases arising from Baltimore City, but with the sheer amount of fentanyl plus a gun being involved it is no surprise this Baltimore County case went federal.  Most of the time a defendant would much rather be prosecuted in Maryland state court, as the sentencing guidelines are typically lower and there is parole.  However, under these circumstances the defendant likely would have received a similar sentence in state court, as he would have been subject to three Maryland mandatory sentence provisions.  Anyone who is found to be in possession of more than five grams of fentanyl faces a mandatory 5 years in prison.  Additionally, the possession of a firearm in a drug trafficking crime carries a 5-year minimum prison sentence under state law.  The Woodlawn man may have also been subject to charges for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon/ person with a drug conviction under 5-601.  This offense also carries a 5-year mandatory sentence that cannot be suspended unless the prior offense had been closed for more than 5 years.  Closed means probation and parole must have been completed.

The Blog will continue to follow cases traditionally prosecuted in state court that are picked up by federal law enforcement.  A general rule is that any convicted felon who is arrested with a gun in Baltimore City could face federal prosecution, but now it is clear the feds are branching out to the County and other Maryland jurisdictions.  Based on this press release it is also clear that federal law enforcement agencies are actively pursuing anyone involved in fentanyl distribution.  If you have been charged with a gun or drug crime anywhere in Maryland or Florida call criminal defense lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime at 410-207-2598.  Benjamin specializes in charges for drug possessiondrug distribution, possession with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon or disqualified person.  He offers free consultations and is available to defend clients from the Eastern Shore to Western Maryland.

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money-943782_960_720-300x225The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland recently announced the results of several federal law enforcement efforts aimed at targeting the most violent neighborhoods in Baltimore City. In the last month alone law enforcement closed investigations that resulted in the arrest of 90 defendants on serious federal crimes such as drug distribution and possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a crime. Multiple law enforcement agencies including the FBI, ATF, DEA, Homeland Security and the Baltimore Police Department participated in the investigations, which in addition to the 90 arrests yielded 51 firearms, almost $1 million in cash and kilogram amounts of drugs. The controlled substances seized were fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and marijuana, which are the most common street drugs of the times.

According to this release federal law enforcement separated their investigations by neighborhoods or territories. Police targeted a certain section of the city that includes a couple blocks or street corners, which they likely identified by following the buyers. Once they had the area in their sights law enforcement set up shop and began gathering evidence they ultimately needed to bring to federal prosecutors and then the grand jury. In this past release the U.S. Attorney’s Office revealed the investigations into four separate locations across the city. The first investigation in East Baltimore produced 25 arrests in total, with 10 being charged with illegal firearm possession by a prohibited person. A person can be prohibited for a number of reasons including prior felony convictions or even prior misdemeanor convictions. A separate West Baltimore investigation produced six drug distribution and firearm arrests, including one charge for possession of an illegal fully automatic firearm. In Southwest Baltimore another 38 defendants were charged for their involvement in a drug trafficking ring that had ties to Virginia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Finally, a Northwest Baltimore investigation produced 21 arrests for distribution of fentanyl and crack cocaine, and possession of firearms.

Each of these individual investigations falls under the umbrella initiative called Project Safe Neighborhoods or PSN, which is the federal government’s key crime reduction component in Baltimore. In the first half of 2019 the feds indicted 215 defendants compared to a total of 246 in the entire year of 2018. The U.S. Attorney’s Office anticipates this trend will continue and that they will charge 50% more defendants with violent crimes this year than in 2018. The top law enforcement officer in Maryland has stated repeatedly that reducing violent crime in Baltimore is priority number one, and if so the work will have to continue for years. The governor and the even the president have not been shy about their feelings about Baltimore, and this pressure is definitely felt by the law enforcement community in the city. The only way to appease the politicians and the public is to make arrests and secure convictions, but sometimes those that are not responsible for the violence become scapegoats for the actions of others.

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concertina-wire-1031773_960_720-200x300The U.S. Attorney’s Office recently announced that a convicted narcotics dealer has been sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for his role in the importation and distribution of fentanyl. The 38-year old Wicomico County man will also be placed on 3 years of probation following his release from federal prison. According to his plea agreement law enforcement began investigating the defendant back in the fall of 2017 for his involvement in large-scale drug trafficking ring. Agencies including ICE, Homeland Security and the Maryland State Police eventually learned that defendant used fictitious names and email addresses to purchase fentanyl directly from China, and had the narcotics shipped to locations throughout the Eastern Shore. After it was mixed with various cutting agents, the defendant and his co-conspirators would package and sell the fentanyl in Baltimore and other locations in Maryland. Law enforcement used confidential informants to engage in a series of controlled buys, which yielded detailed information on how the fentanyl should be mixed and sold. At least two of these controlled buys took place in Baltimore City, and within a month police had obtained a search warrant for the defendant’s home in Salisbury.

Execution of the search warrant yielded over 400 grams of fentanyl and close to $20,000 in cash. Police also recovered drug paraphernalia including baggies, scales and a blender. Fortunately for the defendant law enforcement did not recover any firearms in the home, as this would have triggered a series of additional charges. On the other hand, law enforcement did learn that earlier in 2017 a woman had died of a fentanyl overdose in the same home where the search warrant was executed, and that the defendant was present when it happened. As part of his plea the defendant admitted that he had directed the overdose victim to go to the kitchen where the drugs were mixed, and upon cleaning the kitchen the woman had come into contact with a deadly dose of fentanyl. While the defendant was never charged for his role in the death of the woman, it almost certainly played a large part in the plea offer from the government, and the sentence handed down by the judge.

Readers of the Blog are well aware of the federal government’s involvement with Baltimore City gun and gang prosecutions, but guns and gangs are not all the feds are after. Heroin and fentanyl overdose deaths are at a critical level, and any large-scale narcotics trafficking, especially when it involves international shipments and cross state distribution is going to attract the attention of federal law enforcement. The feds will continue to utilize effective tools such as confidential informants and controlled buys in order to take down mid-level dealers, and lengthy prison sentences may await those who are prosecuted. The federal sentencing guidelines are stricter that the Maryland guidelines, and convicted defendants in federal cases are not eligible for parole as they are in Maryland state cases. Federal inmates typically serve over 80 percent of their sentence, while state inmates can be eligible for parole after only serving 25 percent of their time.

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pistol-1350484_1280-300x200The federal government’s commitment to prosecuting Baltimore City gun crimes was on display again this week, as two men were sentenced to almost ten years in prison for unlawful firearm possession. Both the ATF and the Baltimore Police Department participated in the investigations that ultimately led to the convictions, and sentences were announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland. In the first case a 35-year old received a sentence of 100 months in federal prison followed by 3 years of probation for illegal possession of a stolen firearm. According to the plea, law enforcement executed a search warrant of the defendant’s residence and found a stolen semi-automatic handgun on the couch along with marijuana that the defendant planned to sell.   In the plea the defendant agreed that the firearm was possessed in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and admitted that the he knew the firearm was stolen. The defendant was prohibited from possessing a firearm due to multiple prior felony convictions

Just 3 days later, a second Baltimore man was sentenced by the same federal judge to 9 years in prison for possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance and possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. The jail sentence will be followed by 5 years of probation, or supervised release as it is termed in the federal system. According to the plea agreement police officers observed the defendant participating in a drug transaction and attempted make contact with him, but the defendant fled the scene. After a brief pursuit the defendant was arrested, and a search incident to arrest revealed oxycodone bills and over $400 in cash. Police also recovered a black jacket nearby with a loaded handgun inside the pocket. Law enforcement was able to prove the jacket belonged to the defendant using evidence recovered from a search warrant. This defendant was already prohibited from possessing a handgun due to prior felony convictions for possession with intent to distribute narcotics.

Both defendants could have easily been prosecuted in the Circuit Court in Baltimore, but the feds continue to pound the message that they will not ignore illegal gun possession in the city. Both Maryland law and federal law provide mandatory minimum prison sentences for illegal gun possession, but gun charges carry lengthier prison sentences in the federal system, and defendants are never eligible for parole. The defendants received lengthy sentences in large part due to their status as prior convicted felons, but the fact that drugs were involved with both cases contributed as well. Under Maryland law a person is subject to a 5-year minimum prison sentence without parole for both illegal possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Illegal possession of a firearm does not necessarily mean that a person must be a convicted felon. Misdemeanor convictions for second degree assault, and any other crime that carries a more than 2-year maximum penalty will disqualify a person from possessing a gun under state law. Additionally, a conviction for a domestically related offense and even a probation before judgment for domestic assault disqualifies a person. Possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a drug trafficking crime also carries a 5-year sentence without parole. The prosecution must establish that the gun and the drugs have some sort of relationship or nexus, but prior case law on this issue is not in favor of defendants.

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concertina-wire-1031773_960_720-200x300Just a few short years after a massive corruption ring landed numerous corrections officers in prison and permanently shuttered the Baltimore City Detention Center, the feds have announced yet another bust at a Maryland correctional facility. The United States Attorney’s Office recently announced that twenty defendants have been indicted on federal racketeering charges for their roles various ongoing criminal conspiracies at the Maryland Correctional Institute Jessup or MCIJ. Six of these defendants were corrections officers or other employees at the facility, with one being a high-ranking lieutenant and another being a nurse. Seven inmates and seven civilians were also part of the indictment, which became public after the defendants were arrested. The FBI took part in the press release and reiterated that corruption will continue to be one of their main areas of focus. Eliminating prison corruption has also been a top priority for Governor Hogan after the embarrassing scandal in Baltimore created national headlines for weeks. Since 2015 almost 200 defendants have been charged with crimes related to prison corruption in Maryland.

This particular investigation began as early as 2014 and revealed an ongoing smuggling ring at MCIJ, where employees and civilians would conspire to sneak contraband into the facility for pay. The contraband included narcotics such as MDMA (molly), Suboxone strips and other drugs such as marijuana and K2. Tobacco, cell phones and unauthorized thumb drives were also allegedly smuggled into the facility and paid for by inmates using electronic transactions on the illegal cell phones. This criminal conspiracy is eerily similar to the prior jailhouse conspiracy in Baltimore and other instances of prison corruption across the country. There will always be a market for contraband in prison facilities as we have seen glorified in movies such as Shawshank Redemption, though in Shawshank it wasn’t entirely clear how the inmates paid for their contraband. Untraceable electronic forms of payment such as green dot cards have made the exchange of currency much easier, but outsiders are still needed to physically bring desired contraband into the facility. For some, a cut of the extreme markup that contraband brings is too easy to pass up, but as we see there are serious consequences for taking part in this business.

Almost all of the defendants face a maximum of 20 years in prison for the racketeering counts, and half face the same 20-year maximum for conspiracy to distribute narcotics and possession with intent to distribute drugs. The highest-ranking officer faces life in prison for depravation of rights under color of law for allegedly threatening inmates with death or serious bodily injury. Federal prosecutors credited the DPSCS and its employees, who actually initiated the investigation and alerted federal law enforcement to the ongoing conspiracy. While this case could have been prosecuted in state court, it is common for the FBI to take over large-scale corruption conspiracies due to their ample resources and stiffer penalties under the federal sentencing guidelines.

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