Guilty plea to prison bribery

Guard smuggled in cigarettes for money

November 10, 2007

A former correctional officer pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Baltimore to accepting bribes to smuggle cigarettes and other contraband into the federal prison in Cumberland, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Robb Phillips, 33, who lives in Cumberland, had worked for the Federal Bureau of Prisons since July 2000 and worked as a teacher at the Cumberland institution since November 2001, prosecutors said.

After smoking and cigarettes were banned in federal prisons in April 2006, Phillips was approached by an inmate to smuggle cigarettes into the prison, in exchange for $50 per pack or $1,000 per carton, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors described an elaborate scheme in which Phillips received the bribes through a post office box opened by a friend. The cigarettes were brought into the prison inside a large potato chip bag and then left inside a computer box in a storage room for the inmate to get.

To ensure that inmates did not reveal the operation, Phillips used prison computers to monitor inmates' e-mails and phone calls. Eventually smuggling 50 packs per week into the prison, Phillips received more than $14,000 as part of the bribery scheme, prosecutors said.

"Robb Phillips abused his authority as a correctional officer by smuggling tobacco into a federal prison and selling it for a large profit," Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement. "He violated his oath and turned from a law officer to a criminal."

U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake set sentencing for Feb. 8. Phillips faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

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