(USA Today) -- In what could have been a season of The Wire, a federal indictment unsealed Tuesday accuses 13 female guards of collaborating with a Baltimore jail gang to smuggle drugs, cellphones and other banned goods into the city's main detention centers.
The leader of the gang, the Black Guerrilla Family, also had sex with several guards and got four pregnant, according to the indictment, which also names seven inmates and five others with gang connections. Other inmates had "long-term sexual
relationships with corrections officers associated with the enterprise," which "cemented" the corruption.
Gang leader Tavon White, who is in the Baltimore City Detention Center (BCDC) awaiting trial for attempted murder, fathered children with two guards. The women, one of whom White got pregnant twice, tattooed his name on their bodies.
All 25 are charged with racketeering, drug trafficking, extortion, bribery and money laundering.
Smuggled phones and drugs were sold to BGF gang members and non-members inside the BCDC and other holding facilities. They paid "dues," and the gang's "minister of finance" transferred a percentage to leaders on the outside using prepaid, reloadable debit cards, particularly the Green Dot brand.
The gang also levied a "tax" on inmates who did their own smuggling, and passed along a cut through the debit cards.
The enterprise was lucrative. A wire tap caught White claiming he made almost $16,000 in a month.
Corrections officers easily evaded detection, the indictment states:
Even entry through the main entrance of BCDC posed little difficulty to CO's who were members and associates of the enterprise, since the procedures and personnel there were completely inadequate to prevent smuggling. Female CO's associated.with BGF concealed contraband in their underwear, hair, internally, and elsewhere. Most of the contraband would not be detected by a metal detector, and the chances of being searched effectively were remote. Normally, only pat downs were applied, and these rarely led to discoveries of contraband. Even if the metal detector showed an unacceptable amount of metal, CO's entering the facility would not be searched and could simply try again later, return to their vehicles or be waved through. Supervisors were not called to pat down a CO until the metal detector activated for a third time.
Instead of assigning certain employees to permanent duty doing screening at the entrance, all CO's are rotated to guard the entrance as one of their periodic duty stations. This enabled a corrupt CO to simply wait until his
or her co-conspirators were assigned to the entrance and smuggle contraband at that time.
For guards suspected of being gang members or aiding the BGF, "administrative hurdles made the prospect of actual punishment very remote," prosecutors wrote. The suspected guards "were merely transferred to another facility in the immediate vicinity."
The Black Guerrilla Family was founded in 1966 in San Quentin Prison, north or San Francisco, and operates in prisons and on streets nationwide. Prosecutors said it has been the dominant gang at the Baltimore detention center since 2006.
"This is my jail. You understand that?" White said in a Jan. 13 call that investigators recorded. "I make every final call in this jail, ... and nothing go
past me, everything come to me .... Anything that get done must go through me. "
The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services operates the city's facilities. In a statement, the department in a statement that that it had "focused its efforts on identifying and reducing gang activity behind prison walls" the past five years.
"We have also improved the correctional academy, with an intense focus on corruption to include classes on inmate behavior and fraternization, and new regulations to check the gang membership status of prospective correctional officers," the statement said. "As a result, Maryland's prison system and the Baltimore City Detention Center have never been safer, but we will continue with our partners to root out corruption."
Secretary of Public Safety & Correctional Services Gary Maynard said that "99% of our Correctional Officers do their jobs with integrity, honesty and respect."
"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," he said in a statement.