PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - Prison Guards hired to keep the peace in jail are now in trouble themselves.
Separate indictments were unsealed today charging four current and two former correctional officers for the Philadelphia Prison System with attempting to deliver OxyContin pills and, in some cases, a cellular telephone to inmates in exchange for cash payments.
Each defendant is charged, separately, with attempted extortion and attempted distribution of controlled substances, while one defendant (John Wesley Herder) is also charged with making false statements to law enforcement officers.
The defendants, all of whom are from Philadelphia, are: John Wesley Herder, 49, employed at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility ("CFCF"); Bryant Fields, 43, employed at The Detention Center; George Kindle, 29, employed at The House of Corrections; Marc Thompson, 23, formerly employed at The House of Corrections; Dupree Myers, 27, formerly employed at CFCF; and Joseph Romano, 31, previously employed at The Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center ("PICC") and currently employed at the Riverside Correctional Facility.
The indictments were announced to by United States Attorney Zane David Memeger, FBI Special Agent-in-Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr., and Philadelphia Prisons Commissioner Louis Giorla. Each indictment charges a defendant with agreeing to deliver a cellular telephone and/or pills to a prisoner in exchange for a cash payment of between $500 and $1,500. To obtain the contraband and payment, each defendant arranged a meeting with the inmate's purported associate at locations in Philadelphia. During the ensuing meeting, the inmate's purported associate handed the contraband and cash payment to the defendant, and the defendant subsequently smuggled the contraband past prison security and delivered it to an inmate.
According to the indictment, defendant John Wesley Herder agreed to supply a CFCF prisoner with 100 OxyContin (oxycodone) pills and a cellular telephone in exchange for a $1,000 cash payment. On October 17, 2013, in Philadelphia, Herder met with Person #1 and Person #1 provided Herder with 100 pills, represented to contain OxyContin (oxycodone), a Nokia cellular telephone, and $1,000 in cash. During his meeting with Person #1, Herder allegedly stated, "Just tell [the inmate] to sit tight and I got it coming to him, ok." On October 29, 2013, Herder allegedly provided the purported OxyContin pills and cellular telephone to the CFCF inmate. During an interview with federal law enforcement agents on June 18, 2015, Herder allegedly gave a false statement about bringing contraband into CFCF.
On or about October 11, 2013 and then again on November 15, 2013, defendant George Kindle is alleged to have delivered 100 pills, represented to contain OxyContin (oxycodone), and a cellular telephone to an inmate at The House of Corrections. In each instance, Kindle accepted a $1,000 cash payment in exchange for his agreement to deliver contraband to the inmate.
On or about September 16, 2013, defendant Marc Thompson is alleged to have delivered 100 pills, represented to contain OxyContin (oxycodone), and a Blackberry cellular telephone to an inmate at The House of Corrections in exchange for a $1,500 cash payment.
On or about March 10, 2014, defendant Bryant Fields is alleged to have delivered 50 pills, represented to contain OxyContin (oxycodone), to an inmate at The Detention Center in exchange for a $500 cash payment.
On or about July 29, 2014, defendant Joseph Romano is alleged to have delivered 100 pills, represented to contain OxyContin (oxycodone), to an inmate at PICC in exchange for a $1,000 cash payment.
Between December 22, 2014 and December 29, 2014, defendant Dupree Myers is alleged to have delivered at least 71 pills, represented to contain OxyContin, and an LG cellular telephone to an inmate at CFCF in exchange for a $1,000 cash payment.
"Prison safety depends on prison guards acting with honesty and integrity," said Memeger. "Prison guards who violate security procedures by smuggling drugs and other contraband to inmates undermine that safety and make an inherently dangerous environment more dangerous."
"Correctional officers willing to sell their services are not only violating their oath, but they are deliberately choosing to place their colleagues and the very public they are charged with protecting into harm's way," said Sweeney. "Commissioner Giorla and his team should be commended for the leadership they displayed in working to address a threat they identified. The FBI's public corruption task force will continue to work with our partners to aggressively investigate allegations of corruption, especially those that impact the safety of the public."
"It is regrettable that sworn staff, who have an obligation to provide a lawful and secure environment in our jails, chose to offer their badges for sale and pervert their authority for personal gain," said Giorla. "When any corrections employee engages in corrupt activity, they endanger their colleagues, those in custody, and the public. These indictments are the result of a lengthy and thorough investigation sought by the Philadelphia Prisons to address a growing number of contraband seizures in our jails. We hope the message is clear: the Philadelphia Prison System will have no place for staff memebers who use the power of their position to engage in criminal acts."
If convicted, defendants Thompson, Fields, Romano, and Myers face a statutory maximum sentence of 40 years in prison; defendant Herder faces a statutory maximum sentence of 45 years in prison; defendant Kindle faces a statutory maximum sentence of 80 years in prison. Each defendant also faces possible fines, supervised release, and special assessments.
The case was investigated by the FBI and the Philadelphia Department of Corrections with assistance from the Philadelphia Police Department's Prison Intelligence Group. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kevin Brenner.