Six New York City correction officers and several others, including some jailed for unrelated offenses, were charged Tuesday for their roles in a conspiracy to smuggle drugs and other contraband into Rikers Island jails, officials said.
The correction officers schemed with the other suspects to sneak marijuana, its related synthetic product K2, the narcotic Suboxone as well as a cellphone, into two jail facilities on the island, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in Brooklyn federal court.
In exchange for smuggling the drugs past jail security for distribution, the officers received thousands of dollars in bribes, investigators said.
“The correction officers charged today allegedly accepted bribes to sneak contraband onto Rikers Island — propagating behavior that has the potential to harm other officers and prisoners alike,” New York FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney Jr. said in a statement. “The smuggling of contraband into our jails is a common Hollywood storyline, but while there’s an element [of] fiction in many a screenplay, there’s nothing fake about this real life threat to our correctional facilities.”
The probe by the FBI and the city's Department of Investigation got underway in early 2019 and focused on smuggling taking place at the George R. Vierno Center and Otis Bantum Correctional Center, both on Rikers, said Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue in a statement.
Investigators reviewed recorded telephone calls made by defendants who used coded language to pass on information about the smuggling, according to the complaint. The words “Oakland Raider jerseys” meant marijuana and the phrase “Got Pink Panties,” referred to a correction officer, the complaint stated.
Among the non-guard defendants in the case are Veronica Jagdeo, 24, of Freeport, and James Albert, 43, of upstate Comstock, according to a news release announcing the charges.
One of the correction officers charged was Angel Rodriquez, 23, of Bellport. Other correction officers facing charges include Darrington James, 30, Patrick Legerme, 29, and Aldrin Livingston, 31, all of Queens. Two additional officers, Michael Murray and Christopher Walker, both 28, are from Brooklyn, officials said.
In October 2019, a special correction department search team seized an iPhone 6 and a phone charger from one inmate’s laundry bag, as well as 12 clear plastic bags containing marijuana, officials noted.
A spokesman for Donoghue said late Tuesday that arraignments for the defendants were pending.