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Rikers Nurse Arrested for Smuggling Booze, Tobacco and Drugs to Inmates

By Eddie Small | September 24, 2014 3:17pm
 A view of the entrance to the Rikers Island prison complex.
A view of the entrance to the Rikers Island prison complex.
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David Pickoff

RIKERS ISLAND — A Rikers Island nurse who worked for the jail system's embattled medical provider was arrested for smuggling alcohol, tobacco and drugs to inmates, according to the Department of Investigation.

Jeffrey Taylor, 48, was charged on Sept. 23 with bribery, contraband, misconduct and conspiracy, crimes that could send him to prison for seven years, the DOI said. He has been working at the jail's Anna M. Kross Center for Corizon Health, the company providing medical care at New York City's jails, for the past four years.

Corizon has come under strong scrutiny from the state over the past few years after four inmates died under its care, but the city has still renewed the private health care provider's multi-million dollar contract multiple times.

It has also been sued more than two dozen times since 2012.

Taylor, who lives in the Bronx, took tobacco and alcohol orders from inmates Howard Powell, Kevin Lides and Trent Patterson, according to a criminal complaint.

It was unclear if any inmates were charged in the alleged scheme.

The trio requested items including vodka, rum and loose tobacco between May and September 2014, according to the DOI's investigation and court documents.

Taylor would hide the contraband where inmates working janitorial jobs were cleaning, and they in turn would pick it up and deliver it to other inmates, including Powell, Lides and Patterson.

An inmate originally approached Taylor in May to ask him about bringing tobacco into the facility, an arrangement he told investigators he agreed to "out of curiosity and need," according to the criminal complaint.

Taylor received more than $2,200 in Western Union wire transfers for his alleged smuggling efforts and once delivered Patterson 20 strips of the narcotic suboxone, a drug used to treat opiate dependence, for $200.

"Suboxone comes in packaging that resembles Band-Aid packages in the way that they open," Taylor told investigators according to the complaint. "I know what suboxone is."

Taylor began smuggling in alcohol as a favor to the inmates but was later paid for that as well, court documents said.

The arrest is part of a broader DOI investigation into problems at Rikers Island, including violence and evidence tampering. Taylor is the 11th Rikers employee to be arrested as part of the probe, which has also led to the arrests of over 30 inmates.

Taylor's attorney Frederick Bittlingmaier did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Corizon declined to comment on the situation, as the company is cooperating with authorities in the investigation, said spokeswoman Susan Morgenstern.

A spokesman for the Department of Correction said in an email that, although he could not comment on an ongoing criminal investigation, the agency was fully cooperating with DOI's efforts, and there is "no room for corruption" in Commissioner Joseph Ponte's plans for reform.

Taylor, whose bail was set at $10,000 cash or a $15,000 bond, was arraigned on Sept. 23, and his next court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 30, according to the Bronx District Attorney's office.

"There is zero tolerance for anyone who threatens the safety and integrity of the City's jails by trafficking drugs, alcohol, and tobacco to inmates," said DOI Commissioner Mark Peters in a statement.

"As DOI's ongoing investigation has shown, contraband smuggling contributes to the larger problems of violence and disorder on Rikers Island, and we are committed to exposing and stopping this pernicious and illegal conduct."