Officials on Thursday announced the takedown of a smuggling ring at Rikers Island that allegedly involved correction officers bringing in scalpels and drugs in exchange for thousands of dollars in bribes. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
It was a lucrative scheme for those involved: smuggling drugs into Rikers Island, where they could fetch even higher prices than street value.
"A single strip of suboxone, a small bag of marijuana or a small bag of synthetic marijuana, can cost $50 on the inside. A single cigarette can cost $10," said Mark Peters, commissioner of the Deaprtment of Investigation.
Making it all possible, officials say, were Department of Correction employees acting as couriers.
Thursday, the city Department of Investigation and Bronx District Attorney announced their joint operation had led to the indictment of 17 people, including correction officers Kevin McKoy and Mohammed Sufian and Rikers Island cook Darnell Wilson.
McKoy was arrested last November. In exchange for at least $10,000 in bribes, he allegedly smuggled in K2, or synthetic marijuana, suboxone strips and even scalpels, which were wrapped in duct tape to avoid setting off metal detectors, and which authorities said put his fellow officers at risk.
"This alleged scheme contributed to the climate of danger and fear that feeds the notorious reputation of Rikers Island," said Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark.
"This case represents the single largest contraband smuggling takedown at Rikers Island in more than a decade," Peters said.
Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte, meanwhile, announced a series of new measures Thursday to stop contraband, like a new dedicated team to monitor inmate phone calls, while noting previous steps, like increased K-9 teams, have led to a 48 percent increase in recovered weapons this fiscal year.
While both Peters and Clark credited Ponte for working with them, they also said reform is a work in progress.
"This is a systemic problem the DOI and the Bronx district attorney will continue to tackle," Peters said.
According to the Bronx district attorney, Kevin McKoy faces up to 28 years in prison if convicted of the top counts against him. Mohammed Sufian faces up to 21 years.