Greenbelt, Maryland – Former Correctional Dietary Officer Chanel Pierce, age 27, of Pikesville, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to a federal racketeering conspiracy in connection with her work at the Jessup Correctional Institution (JCI). The conspiracy included former correctional officers, inmates, and outside “facilitators,” for paying bribes to correctional officers to smuggle contraband, including narcotics, alcohol, tobacco, and cell phones into the prison.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; and Secretary Robert Green, of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
“Corrupt correctional officers endanger the lives of their co-workers and of the inmates entrusted to their care and supervision,” said United States Attorney Robert K. Hur. “They also endanger the entire community, as prisoners can use contraband cell phones to direct criminal activity outside prison walls. The United States Attorney’s Office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to root out prison corruption and prosecute correctional officers who abuse their positions of trust to facilitate and engage in criminal behavior.”
“The public expects its correctional officers to guard the wall that divides those who are in prison from the community. Chanel Pierce violated that trust and allowed a free flow of criminal activity in and out of the prison,” said Jennifer Boone, Special Agent in Charge of the Baltimore Field Office of the FBI. “Today’s guilty plea shows that no one in a position of public trust who carries out a criminal conspiracy is beyond the reach of the dedicated agents, officers and detectives from our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners.”
JCI was a maximum-security prison that housed approximately 1,800 male inmates, with approximately 423 Correctional Officers (COs).
According to her plea agreement, from at least 2017 until her arrest earlier this year, Pierce conspired with other COs, inmates, and outside facilitators to smuggle contraband into JCI, including narcotics, alcohol, tobacco, and cell phones, in order to enrich themselves and protect and expand their criminal operation. According to the plea agreement and other court documents, COs accepted or agreed to accept payments from facilitators and/or inmates or engaged in sexual relations with inmates as consideration for smuggling contraband into JCI. Inmates acted as both wholesalers and retailers of contraband and in the process made profits that far exceeded the profits that could be made by selling similar drugs on the street. For example, conspirator inmates could purchase Suboxone strips for approximately $3 each and sell them inside JCI for approximately $50 each, or for a profit of more than 1,000 percent.
As detailed in her plea agreement, Pierce conspired with inmates and outside facilitators to smuggle contraband, including controlled dangerous substances, such as Suboxone, into JCI and then distribute the contraband to inmates. Pierce met with outside facilitators at her residence and elsewhere to obtain contraband for smuggling. Pierce would then conceal the contraband on her person, smuggle it into JCI and distribute it to JCI inmates. Pierce admitted that she did this regularly while employed at the facility.
In exchange for smuggling the contraband, Pierce received thousands of dollars in bribe payments, which were sent to her by co-conspirators on behalf of JCI inmates. The memo line of the payments would often include the name or nickname of the inmate on whose behalf the bribe was made. For example, on April 12, 2019, Pierce received a $500 bribe payment from a co-conspirator along with the message “for Boosie,” who was JCI inmate Marshall Hill. Pierce transferred most of the bribe payments to her personal bank accounts and used the funds for her own benefit.
Early on the morning of May 25, 2019, Pierce met with a co-defendant outside facilitator at her home and obtained several balloons filled with controlled substances to smuggle into JCI. Pierce then went to work and was stopped by law enforcement as she entered the facility and searched. Law enforcement recovered a concealed purple balloon from Pierce’s person containing Suboxone. A subsequent search of Pierce’s home revealed several more balloons filled with contraband that she intended to smuggle into JCI.
Pierce faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the racketeering conspiracy. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang has scheduled sentencing for January 8, 2021, at 2:00 p.m.
Co-defendant inmates Page Boyd, age 35, and Marshall Hill, a/k/a “Boosie,” age 28, have pleaded guilty to their roles in the racketeering conspiracy and are scheduled to be sentenced on November 23, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. and December 2, 2020 at 2:30 p.m., respectively. Co-defendant facilitator Trinesse Butts, age 36, of Parkville, Maryland has also pleaded guilty to the racketeering conspiracy and is scheduled to be sentenced on November 23, 2020, at 10:30 a.m.
The U.S. Attorney expressed appreciation to the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, whose staff initiated the JCI investigation and have been full partners in this investigation. United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the FBI and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services for their work in the investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Burden H. Walker and Lauren E. Perry, who are prosecuting this case.
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