On November 21, 2013 the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Reported announced that a federal superseding indictment was unsealed charging 19 additional defendants, including 14 former and current correctional officers with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, with conspiring to operate the Black Guerilla Family (BGF) gang inside correctional facilities. All 19 defendants also are charged with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute drugs; and six are charged with money laundering conspiracy.

This brings to 44 the total number of alleged BGF gang members and associates charged in the case, including 27 correctional officers. Sixteen of the 25 defendants in the original indictment in April 2013 have pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, including nine correctional officers, four inmates, and three drug suppliers. One defendant is deceased. Eight defendants charged with racketeering in April 2013 remain in the superseding indictment.

The superseding indictment and a search warrant affidavit were unsealed on November 21, 2013 upon the arrests of the defendants and the execution of 15 search warrants. Approximately 150 agents and officers assisted in the arrests and search warrants. The superseding indictment was returned on November 5, 2013, and remained under seal until after the warrants were executed on the morning of November 21, 2013.

The defendants charged in the superseding indictment are alleged to be members or associates of the BGF, a gang active in prisons throughout the United States. According to the indictment, BGF has been the dominant gang at the Baltimore City Detention Center (BCDC), and in several connected facilities, especially the Baltimore Central Booking Intake Center, the Women’s Detention Center (which houses many men), and in the Jail Industries Building.

Correctional officers allegedly hid drugs and other contraband beneath clothing and inside body cavities when they entered the prison. The correctional officers also smuggled items in their shoes or in sandwiches they brought into the prison. BGF leaders used contraband cell phones to order drugs and other contraband and to coordinate gang activities.

Court documents allege that BGF members recruited correctional officers through personal and often sexual relationships as well as bribes, and that some officers traded sex for money. Officers believed it was unlikely that they would be fired or face significant discipline even if they were caught smuggling contraband or fraternizing with inmates.

The defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the racketeering and drug conspiracies. Thirteen of the defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison as well for conspiracy to commit money laundering. James Yarborough also faces five years in prison for possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

Sixteen of the 25 defendants in the original indictment have already pleaded guilty. And it is safe to assume that the Government offered these defendants more lenient deals in exchange for their cooperation into the investigation of the 19 new defendants. This form of cooperation usually begins in the form of a proffer meeting where the defendant answers the Government’s questions about the case, the defendant admits that he or she is guilty, and the Government promises not use those statements directly against the defendant.

After one or more proffer sessions the Government will determine whether the defendant can provide substantial assistance into the investigation of other defendants. This substantial assistance can come in many forms, including testifying against others, providing very important historical information, or agreeing to participate in recorded calls against other suspects. If such assistance is pursued, the Government will usually agree to file a 5K1.1 letter with the Court indicating that the Court should provide a more lenient sentence than is otherwise warranted in the case. Having defense counsel explore all of the available options for a defendant is very important. Only with a full understanding of the case at hand, including whether one should cooperate, can a defendant make informed decisions about their case.

This post is authored by Ferrari & Associates, P.C., a law firm specializing in federal criminal defense matters. Feel free to contact us at (202) 280-6370 or info@ferrariassociatespc.com.

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