9 New York corrections officers and employees charged with smuggling drugs and razors

“We shouldn’t have to remind public servants that accepting bribes while conducting illegal activity could constitute a federal crime, but when necessary, that’s exactly what we’ll do.”

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The Justice Department announced Wednesday that seven New York corrections officers and two staffers have been indicted for accepting bribes and smuggling contraband into New York City area jails. The contraband included scalpels, razor blades, drugs, alcohol, and cellphones.

According to her indictment, Tameka Lewis abused her position as a counselor with the Department of Correction to smuggle synthetic cannabinoids, often referred to as “K2” or “spice,” and other contraband into the Otis Bantum Correctional Center on Rikers Island, in return for over $40,000 in bribes, from June 2019 to September 2020. She is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit federal crimes, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; one count of federal program bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; one count of honest services wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and one count of distribution of a controlled substances analogue, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

From at least September 2019 to December 2019, Jasmine Reed allegedly smuggled a razor, K2, marijuana, cigarettes, a cellphone, and other contraband into the Manhattan Detention Complex in downtown Manhattan while employed as an exterminator with the Department of Correction. She is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit federal crimes, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; one count of honest services wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and one count of distribution of a controlled substance, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Miguel Compres, Temaine Pelzer, and Brian Harrell, who work as corrections officers at the Manhattan Detention Complex, have been accused of smuggling drugs, weapons, and other contraband into the jail in exchange for bribes. Compres and Pelzer were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit federal crimes, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; one count of federal program bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; and one count of honest services wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Accused of smuggling MDMB-4en-PINACA, a synthetic cannabinoid and Schedule I controlled substance analogue, and other contraband into the Manhattan Detention Complex, Harrell was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit federal crimes, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; one count of federal program bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; one count of honest services wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and one count of distribution of a controlled substances analogue, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Working as corrections officers at separate facilities on Rikers Island, Dariel Diaz, Rashawn Assanah, Robert Balducci, and Jonathan Garrett were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit federal crimes, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; one count of federal program bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; and one count of honest services wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

“These defendants were responsible for maintaining a safe and orderly environment in New York City’s jails,” U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a recent press release. “Instead, as alleged, they abused their positions to enrich themselves by smuggling weapons, drugs, and other dangerous contraband in return for thousands of dollars of cash bribes. This alleged activity violated the defendants’ duties, and endangered the inmates they were charged to supervise and guard.”

“The nine defendants charged today risked the safety and security of their colleagues and others within the New York City Department of Correction when they carelessly decided to smuggle contraband into our jails, as we allege today,” FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney Jr. stated on Wednesday. “We shouldn’t have to remind public servants that accepting bribes while conducting illegal activity could constitute a federal crime, but when necessary, that’s exactly what we’ll do.”

“These charged crimes involving contraband smuggling and bribery by City Correction officers and employees reflect the pernicious and damaging impact of corruption,” noted Margaret Garnett, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation (DOI). “Correction officers and staff should protect the integrity of the jails, not promote lawlessness and violence by accepting bribes in return for trafficking drugs, scalpels, razor blades, cell phones, and other contraband – all highly valued, illegal items that undermine order in the jails and compromise the safety of other correction officers and inmates. DOI thanks the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for their partnership on these significant investigations.”

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