Two New York City Corrections officers, including one from Long Island, have been suspended without pay after being arrested Tuesday for their alleged role in a Rikers Island contraband smuggling scheme – helping to deliver drugs and cellphones to gang-affiliated inmates.
Corrections Officers Krystle Burrell, 35, of Lawrence, and Katrina Patterson, 31, of Jamaica, Queens were among six individuals booked April 5 on federal charges connected to the illicit operation.
According to U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace, Burrell and Patterson allegedly accepted bribes to help the other four arrested suspects smuggle the contraband to detainees tied to the Bloods gang.
“The defendants, public servants on the city’s payroll, allegedly smuggled contraband, including cellphones and drugs, to incarcerated gang members at Rikers Island. The flow of contraband into our jails is a serious problem which puts inmates, fellow officers and potentially the public at risk,” Peace said.
The other four suspects charged in the case Tuesday were Bronx residents Imani Matthews, 25, and Ashley Medina, 24; Michael Ross, 36, of Comstock, NY; and Terrae Hinds, 28, of Yonkers.
Federal agents said that Patterson allegedly accepted at least $36,000 in kickbacks from Medina and Matthews to bring narcotics and cellphones to Ross during his incarceration at Rikers Island’s Robert N. Davoren Center.
Authorities picked up on the scheme after obtaining video footage from the facility showing Patterson bringing the contraband to Ross.
Investigators also obtained text messages from Patterson which included four messages with Matthews, during which Matthews wrote that some of the contraband would be “4 black joints in 1 paper.” Patterson allegedly responded, “it better be wrapped so many times I don’t want to smell it.”
In a separate criminal complaint, Burrell was charged with allegedly taking $9,780 in bribes to bring contraband to Hinds while he was detained at the Anna M. Kross Center on Rikers Island. Federal prosecutors said Burrell brought at least two cellphones to Hinds, and facilitated sales of narcotics and other contraband items on his behalf at the detention center.
“The contraband trade fuels violence that endangers inmates and staff, and undermines the rules and regulations intended to maintain order on Rikers Island,” noted NYC Department of Investigation Commissioner Jocelyn E. Strauber.
Both Burrell and Patterson face up to five years in federal prison if convicted.
In a statement, the Corrections Department noted that both officers were indefinitely suspended without pay. Corrections Commissioner Louis A. Molina indicated they would both be terminated if found guilty of the charges against them.
“Since the beginning of my tenure, I have been committed to improving our jails, and these allegations are extremely disturbing,” Molina said. “We are law enforcement officers, and smuggling contraband is not only deplorable and illegal, but it puts everyone in our facilities at risk. We have zero-tolerance for corruption and it’s paramount as public servants that we are committed to impeccable integrity. If these officers are found guilty they will be terminated and their shield numbers will never be worn again.”
This story first appeared on amNY.com.