Inmates at Rikers Island used coded language like “Oakland Raider jerseys” to refer to marijuana that correction officers had snuck in for them as part of a smuggling ring, according to new charges from federal prosecutors.
Six correction officers at the facility raked in thousands of dollars by bringing marijuana, K2 and, in one case, an iPhone to inmates in the George R. Vierno Center and the Otis Bantum Correctional Center on Rikers Island, charges unsealed in Federal court Tuesday reveal.
“The corruption of correction officers presents a security risk to the entire jail population, and a potential danger to the residents of our communities,” said US Attorney Richard Donoghue. “We will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute those who place their personal enrichment over the public duties they have sworn to perform.”
Fifteen others, including five inmates, were also charged in the probe by city and federal prosecutors that began back in early 2019.
Investigators mapped the ring via telephone calls, jail security footage and financial records from online money transfers, including CashApp, that the guards relied on for sneaking in the contraband.
Over the phone, inmates could be heard using the coded language for a correction officer, referred to as “pink panties,” and marijuana, which was occasionally called “Oakland Raider jerseys.”
One correction officer, Patrick Legerme, allegedly raked in $11,750 by smuggling marijuana and K2 for inmates, according to CashApp transactions reviewed by investigators. Legerme, known among inmates as “Panama,” used the CashApp handle “$panamap19” to collect the money over 15 transactions, prosecutors allege.
Correction officers Darrington James, Aldrin Livingston, Michael Murray, Angel Rodriguez and Christopher Walker were also charged in the investigation alongside inmates and other civilian accomplices.
The correction officers were typically undone by trained canines within Rikers facilities that detected the contraband on their person, officials allege.
In one instance, a dog had caught Rodriguez with bundles of weed and K2 tied up in three balloons that he had stashed “near his left ankle” and “groin area,” according to the criminal complaint.
Magistrate Judge Ramon Reyes Jr., of the Eastern District of New York, released five of the six corrections officers on $50,000 bonds. The sixth, Patrick Legerme, was released on a $25,000 bond. All were ordered to stay away from Rikers Island.
“If you don’t you’re going to be in trouble. To put it colloquially,” Reyes said.
The defendants remained tight-lipped during their initial appearance in court Tuesday, answering Reyes’ questions with a quiet “Yes” or “Yes, your Honor.”
Two lawyers representing officers spoke to the Post to assure their clients’ innocence.
“It’s not the kind of case you win on the first day,” Legerme’s lawyer, Howard Greenberg, told The Post after he and Legerme left the courtroom. “If my guy goes to prison; I’ll quit the practice of criminal law.”
Other defendants and attorneys approached by The Post after the court appearances declined to comment on the case.
“Absolutely not,” Angel Rodriguez told a Post reporter when asked to comment on the charges against him.
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