Items hauled out of a corrections officer's apartment before she was indicted in a gang racketeering conspiracy appear to connect her to a who's who of Baltimore criminals.
Authorities say Alicia Simmons, an employee at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, is associated with the Black Guerrilla Family, the gang accused of directing a criminal enterprise from inside prison with the help of corrections staff. In a June 22 raid on her Pikesville apartment, agents seized the BGF "constitution," gang codes written in Swahili and paperwork related to its top leadership.
Simmons, 34, also was in possession of letters, inmate ID cards, debit cards and other correspondence linked to some of the city's most notorious criminals. There's a letter from Kevin Gary, the Tree Top Bloods member known for his tinted red contact lenses, and another from Isaac Smith, convicted in the firebombing of a North Baltimore community activist's home, that discussed Simmons being criminally charged.
She also had inmate identification cards in the names of Johnny "J.R." Butler and Calvin "Turkey" Wright, recently convicted for running a violent east-side drug ring connected to at least two killings; and Ronnie Thomas, better known as "Skinny Suge," the producer of the infamous "Stop Snitching" videos.
The search warrant return and accompanying affidavit peel back another layer of the complex world of prison corruption that the Drug Enforcement Administration has been investigating for years, culminating in a racketeering indictment this week.
Simmons is accused in the affidavit of helping smuggle heroin and cell phones through the prison's laundry system, allowing gang members to fight one another, and attempting to sniff out informants, including spying on federal agents as they met with a high-ranking gang member. The items in her apartment raise the question of whether her criminal ties go beyond the BGF.
Special Agent Edward Marcinko, a DEA spokesman, said her potential connections to other criminal enterprises were being investigated. It's not clear why a state corrections officer would be in contact with federal inmates such as Gary and Smith. "We have no clue at this time," Marcinko said.
The Black Guerrilla Family is described by the DEA as the largest and most powerful prison gang in the state, with a presence in every facility and a top-down paramilitary structure that encouraged extortion and violence to further its goals. Already, the case has revealed how leaders used a handbook called the "Black Book" to spread its message (a book endorsed by prominent educators and a two-time mayoral candidate while placing members to work with city school children and violence intervention programs as a front for recruiting.
Few details about Simmons' role in the BGF were revealed in the indictment unsealed this week. But the search warrant affidavit for her vehicle and Pikesville apartment, in the first block of Stockmill Road, adds additional perspective while raising questions about employee discipline within the prison system.
Federal agents appear to have focused on Simmons earlier this year, when a source told agents that they had personally observed her smuggle marijuana, crack cocaine and heroin into the protective custody unit of the Maryland Correctional Institute in Jessup in 2007, according to documents compiled by DEA Task Force member William Nickoles, a city police officer.
A second source said he had received a pound of marijuana from Simmons, and knew of a BGF commander who received 20 grams of heroin from her and other officers every two to three days. That source said that in December 2009 Simmons allowed BGF members into an area where they assaulted another inmate, and that she did not report the assault until the gang members were finished. She was removed from her shift as a result of the incident and suspended five days.
Agents also learned that Simmons was being disciplined by the Division of Correction for fraternizing with a former inmate over Facebook. She received a "Level II" reprimand for her actions, a midlevel punishment that did not result in a suspension.
Prison officials have pointed to their cooperation with the DEA in bringing the indictments and said they should put the agency's "few bad apples" on notice that they will be caught. But Simmons' activities were well-known in the prison for years, according to informants who spoke to the DEA, and she continued to work as a corrections officer despite the infractions.
Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said the agency has improved its screening processes and has been working with law enforcement agencies. Binetti said he could not comment on Simmons' personnel record but acknowledged that the department's burden of proof for termination is often difficult to meet.