Correctional Officer Also Admits Civil Rights Violation for Her Participation in the Stabbing of an Inmate
Baltimore, Maryland – Correctional Officer Rachelle Hankerson, age 26, of Salisbury, Maryland; Ramel Chase, age 34, of Glen Burnie, Maryland; and Miguel Matos, age 46, of Ft. Washington, Maryland, pleaded guilty this week to racketeering conspiracy operating at the Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, Maryland. Hankerson also pleaded guilty to deprivation of rights under color of law for participating in the stabbing of an inmate.
The guilty pleas were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Postal Inspector in Charge Terrence P. McKeown of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - Washington Division; Secretary Stephen T. Moyer of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services; and Colonel William M. Pallozzi, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police.
According to their plea agreements and court documents, the Eastern Correctional Institution (ECI) is the largest state prison in Maryland, operating since 1987 near Westover, in Somerset County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. During the conspiracy, Hankerson was a Correctional Officer (CO) at ECI, Chase was an inmate, and Matos was the father of an inmate at ECI.
Hankerson admitted that she accepted payments from facilitators and inmates to smuggle contraband into ECI, including narcotics, cell phones and tobacco. Hankerson charged at least $500 per package of contraband she smuggled into ECI. Hankerson also admitted that she approached a co-defendant who was a member of the Bloods gang at ECI for whom she smuggled contraband, and asked the inmate to confront inmate D.S., with whom Hankerson had had a verbal dispute. Hankerson twice allowed her co-defendant onto the tier where D.S. was housed. The second time that the co-defendant entered D.S.’s cell he violently attacked D.S., stabbing him multiple times. Another inmate told Hankerson about the violent confrontation, but rather than notifying prison authorities, Hankerson left the area. She later told an inmate to provide a false story to prison authorities that Hankerson had not been on the tier when the attack occurred.
Chase admitted that he bribed and attempted to bribe COs to smuggle contraband, including narcotics, into ECI. Chase managed a contraband smuggling and distribution network involving co-defendants and others. Matos admitted that he facilitated his son’s contraband smuggling in ECI by obtaining narcotics and other contraband and transferring it to co-conspirators who smuggled it into the facility. In addition, Matos performed financial transactions in furtherance of the smuggling.
Law enforcement intercepted multiple calls in which Hankerson, Chase, Matos and others working with them discussed contraband, arranging meetings with correctional officers, and payment for contraband. In calls between Matos and his son, investigators overheard them discussing COs who smuggled contraband into ECI for them. Matos was also overheard discussing the packaging and delivery of contraband with a supplier.
The defendants each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the racketeering conspiracy. Hankerson also faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for deprivation of rights under color of law for her participation in the stabbing of an inmate. U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar has scheduled sentencing for Matos on February 24, 2017, at 10:00 a.m.; for Hankerson on March 7, 2017 at 2:00 p.m.; and for Chase on January 17, 2017 at 2:00 p.m.
The U.S. Attorney expressed appreciation to Secretary Moyer whose staff initiated the ECI investigation and who has made the full resources of the DPSCS available to assist the three-year investigation. U.S. Attorney Rosenstein also recognized the efforts of the Maryland Prison Task Force which has brought together federal, state and local agencies in meetings to generate reforms in prison procedures and facilitate joint investigations of prison corruption and prison gangs. Mr. Rosenstein thanked the members of the Maryland Prison Task Force and the and other agencies who assisted in this investigation and prosecution.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, the Baltimore Police Department and Maryland State Police for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leo J. Wise, Robert R. Harding, and Daniel C. Gardner, who are prosecuting this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case.