Federal authorities charge that Tavon White, an inmate known… (Anne Arundel County Police…)
A cabal of corrupt corrections officers and members of the Black Guerrilla Family gang enjoyed nearly free rein inside the Baltimore City Detention Center, federal authorities allege, smuggling drugs and cellphones into the jail and having sexual relationships that left four guards pregnant.
An indictment unsealed Tuesday names 25 people — including 13 women working as corrections officers — who face racketeering and drug charges. Twenty of the accused also face money-laundering charges.
It alleges that Tavon White, an inmate known as "Bulldog," took control of the prison gang soon after his arrival in 2009 on an attempted-murder charge.
White appeared in Baltimore City Circuit Court Wednesday on that charge, hustled into a court room under heavy guard by state and federal officers. His case was postponed until this summer.
Creston P. Smith, White's attorney in the state case, said he knew nothing about the federal allegations.
But in the documents unsealed Tuesday, White is accused of building a network of corruption inside of the jail that both enabled a smuggling operation and allowed White to manage gang activity on the city streets.
"This is my jail," White said on an intercepted phone call, according to the indictment. "I'm dead serious. … I make every final call in this jail … and nothing go past me, everything come to me."
The indictment and a related affidavit provide new details about the alleged activities of the Black Guerrilla Family, which Baltimore police have blamed for a spike in drug-related violence on city streets. The documents also list several oversight and security lapses at the detention center.
Stephen E. Vogt, the special agent in charge of the Baltimore FBI office, said at a news conference that "Tavon White effectively raised the BGF flag over Baltimore City Detention Center."
"Once a violent offender is sent to jail, law enforcement's hardest work should be behind it," said. "This is not the case in Baltimore City."
Gang leaders allegedly relied on guards and inmates to grow their operation at the city jail. White had informal agreements with jail officials who asked him to maintain order in exchange for their turning "a blind eye" to some of his activities, the affidavit said.
White is also accused of imposing discipline on his subordinates and retaliating against inmates who would not submit to the gang's authority. With the guards, White allegedly cemented relationships by allowing them to use cars including a Mercedes and giving one a diamond ring.
The result, according to the court documents, was a lucrative operation. White said in a recorded conversation that he made as much as $15,800 in a single month selling contraband in jail, and gang members once boasted they could turn $1,000 in profit on an ounce of marijuana.
The indictment alleges that White used his power to maintain a steady supply of smuggled cellphones, marijuana and prescription medications inside the jail. Money also flowed freely into and out of the jail, according to the indictment, transmitted through prepaid debit cards.
By this spring, White was confident of his supremacy in the jail, according to summaries of intercepted calls included in the affidavit.
"I hold the highest seat you can get," he told another alleged member of the gang. "So regardless of what anybody say, whatever I say is law. Like, I am the law. My word is law."
White had sexual relationships with numerous prison guards and got four pregnant, prosecutors allege. Two of the guards had his name tattooed on their bodies — one on her neck and another on her wrist, according to the indictment.
"These sexual relations cemented the business ties and the association of the corrections officers with the enterprise," prosecutors wrote in the indictment.
Two trials in White's state case have ended in hung juries, Baltimore State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein said. He has a trial date scheduled for Wednesday.
No attorney is listed in court records for White or other defendants. People who answered the door at two addresses listed for White in public records said they did not know who he was.
The indictment charges alleged gang members both within and outside of the jail. One remained at large Tuesday, and another was shot and killed in a separate incident before the grand jury returned the indictment.
Some of the corrections officers were motivated by money, according to the U.S. attorney for Maryland, Rod J. Rosenstein. Others were drawn into the gang's orbit because of their personal relationships with its members.
The indictment alleges that the officers were easily able to smuggle contraband, thanks to lax security and light penalties. The guards were able to enter the jail through certain entrances without any security screening, and they had a number of ruses for passing undetected through the main entrance, according to the indictment.