Bronx District Attorney says elaborate scheme involving thousands of bribes brought drugs, other contraband inside
Seventeen people, involving inmates and at least two correction officers, have been arrested as part of a major Rikers Island smuggling investigation, the Bronx District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday afternoon.
Two corrections officers and one Rikers Island staffer are counted among the defendants indicted on multiple charges in conjunction with a conspiracy to smuggle drugs and weapons into the city’s notorious jail complex.
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said two Rikers guards specifically took thousands of dollars in bribes to bring in scalpels, drugs, and other contraband around their ankles which was exchanged and distributed for money on the inside.
One guard charged in the case, Kevin McKoy, made “at least $1000” in bribes for bringing in illegal materials. The other guard indicted, Mohammed Suffian, was previously arrested in February with 62 grams of K2 synthetic marijuana.
The arrests have come as the City Department of Correction released their findings of the first nine months since their plan of tougher search protocols was implemented, aimed at a significant reduction in the number of guns and drugs entering New York City correctional facilities.
Officers found 2,780 knives and other weapons from July 2015 through April at various facilities.
“We are taking aggressive steps to stem the flow of contraband into our facilities,” Commissioner Joseph Ponte said Thursday. “We have zero tolerance for any illegal behavior in our jails, and we are confident that our ongoing reforms are yielding more capable officers and safer jails.”
The main conspiracy at Rikers allegedly took place between September and November of 2015 where, according to the indictment, inmates would call family members of friends and instruct them to give contraband and cash to McKoy, known inside as “The Plug,” “Ticks-and-Fleas,” and other nicknames, who would then contact them to arrange pickup/distribution of the items.
According to New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark G. Peters, the scheme operated like “a corner drug operation, but more lucrative,” as the drugs once distributed inside commanded upwards of five-times their street value.
“This is further evidence of the pervasive culture of corruption at Rikers,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman, “And yet another reason why Rikers must be closed down,”
She added that her organization is looking at a number of proposals seeking to decrease the Rikers’ population – currently managing upwards 10,000 inmates daily – by creating reforms that would make for speedier trials and work releases to get offenders off the island.
The indictment lists 84 counts against the defendants, with charges including bribery, promoting prison contraband, conspiracy, and official misconduct against the DOC employees.
If convicted, McKoy faces up to 28 years in prison and Suffian could receive up to 21 years.
Rikers Island, which serves as a holding facility for people indicted waiting to stand trial who cannot make bail and not a prison, represents one of the colossal failures of our criminal justice system. Inmates are routinely held for years without trial due to their inability to make bail, where they are subjected on a daily basis to violations of their constitutional rights, corruption, and vicious assaults from officers.