Feds: Two Rikers guards took drug gang bribes

Federal prosecutors allege that two correction officers a Rikers Island were paid to allow drug-soaked paper enter the jail facility, where pieces reportedly were sold to inmates by alleged members of a Brooklyn-based gang. 

A Rikers Island correction officer and one of his former colleagues were among 10 people hit with federal racketeering charges last Thursday for their alleged roles in Brooklyn-based gang that prosecutors say has members as far away as Maine

In an eight-page filing with U.S. Magistrate Judge Vera Scanlon in Brooklyn on Feb. 25, Seth DuCharme, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, alleges that Correction Officer Johnny Chiles and “then-DOC Officer” Darius Murphy, both of Brooklyn, accepted bribes from members of the Bully Gang to smuggle sheets of paper soaked with a synthetic cannabinoid known as K2 into Rikers.

Gang members then allegedly sold pieces of the paper to other inmates “at a substantial profit.”

Associates of the inmates allegedly collected thousands of dollars “and used the proceeds to purchase more K2 and continue to smuggle it into Rikers Island.”

Federal authorities allege that the “Rikers Island Drug Trafficking Conspiracy” took place between June 2019 and June 2020.

Others charged Thursday include Kassin Appling, 34, Rod Davis, 29, Laron Estrada, 27, Robert Holt, 33, and Terell Ratliff, 29, all from Brooklyn; Jamel Smith, 23, of the Bronx; and Brittany Duncan, 26, and Nehemie Eril, age unavailable, both of New Jersey.

DuCharme’s office said the arrests add to those of 35 gang members or associates previously charged in a broader investigation of drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering. They include Christina Estevez, 31, and Anthony Kennedy, 34, of Queens; 16 Brooklyn residents; 13 from Maine; three from New Jersey and one from Boston.

“For years, members and associates of the Bully Gang have committed brutal and wanton acts of violence while spreading the poison of dangerous and illicit drugs throughout communities and even correctional institutions,” DuCharme said in a press release issued by his office. “Thanks to the tireless efforts of our law enforcement partners, today’s charges mark significant progress towards permanently neutralizing the Bully Gang and dismantling its destructive drug-trafficking network.”

City Department of Correction Commissioner Margaret Garnett also praised the investigators’ work.

“This investigation deals a substantial blow to gang violence on our City streets and demonstrates the critical need to uphold integrity as a City employee and in all City operations,” Garnett said. “As charged, these current and former city Correction officers used the access and influence of their position to traffic dangerous drugs from the Bully Gang to inmates on Rikers Island in exchange for bribes, undermining the safety of the city’s jails and that of their fellow officers.”

Special Agent-in-Charge John DeVito of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives’ New York Field Division, lauded the ATF/NYPD Joint Firearms Task Force.

“Today, a sophisticated criminal network, committing acts of violence, trafficking in firearms, and distributing dangerous narcotics across the east coast has been dismantled,” DeVito said.

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