RIKERS ISLAND — Correction officers at Rikers Island put their coworkers in danger running a massive smuggling ring that brought weapons and drugs into the city's beleaguered jail, according to law enforcement officials.
Correction Officer Kevin McKoy, 31, whose nicknames include "The Plug" and "Ticks-and-fleas" earned at least $10,000 in bribes for bringing in scalpels and synthetic marijuana, officials from the Bronx District Attorney and the Department of Investigation said.
A total of 17 people were indicted in the ring in a sweeping takedown by the Department of Investigation and the Bronx District Attorney's Office, including two correction officers, six inmates, eight civilians, and a cook employed by the Department of Correction, officials said.
The players conspired to smuggle all sorts of contraband into Rikers, including scalpels and narcotics, in exchange for bribes of thousands of dollars, the Bronx DA's office said.
"This alleged scheme contributed to the climate of danger and fear that feeds the notorious reputation of Rikers Island for brutality," Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said, "and it reveals the true scope of corruption with inmates, Department of Correction employees and outsiders all accused of selfishly endangering others."
Correction Officer Mohammed Sufian has also been indicted in the bust, along with Darnell Wilson, a cook at Rikers Island who was arrested on Feb. 25 with synthetic marijuana and tobacco that he smuggled into the jail inside of his shoes, according prosecutors.
The conspiracy lasted from September 2015 until November 2015 and involved inmates calling friends or family members and telling them to give McKoy cash and contraband, the Bronx DA's office said.
McKoy would then contact the friends or family to arrange picking up the items, according to law enforcement officials.
"Today's announcement provides a unique window into contraband smuggling at Rikers," DOI Commissioner Mark Peters said. "These indictments show how a criminal network can harness outsiders to collect drugs, weapons and money, and then deliver them to corrupt correction officers, who serve as paid couriers for the enterprise and who in turn deliver the contraband to inmates for distribution inside of Rikers."
McKoy was arrested on Nov. 24 with seven scalpels tucked into his underwear and nine scalpels at his Brooklyn home, which he said were meant to go to Rikers, according to the DA's office.
"Even after fellow Correction Officer Ray Calderon was slashed on the side of his face by an inmate, and photos of his wounds were publicized to show the chaos on Rikers Island, McKoy allegedly kept bringing in the weapons," Clark said.
McCoy remains out on bail and is due back in court on July 7. His lawyer Cary London declined to comment on the facts of the case.
Representatives of the firm representing Sufian said jail guard was not wrapped up in the conspiracy.
"Mr. Sufian has no criminal history and was fresh out of the academy without the financial need or time at Rikers to have become corrupted," the firm's statement said. "The paltry sum he was allegedly offered to risk his career and his freedom says a lot in this case."
Overall, the 17 defendants were charged on 84 counts of crimes including bribery, promoting prison contraband and conspiracy.
McKoy faces up to 28 years if convicted; Sufian faces up to 21 years; and Wilson faces up to 7 years.
Sufian is no longer employed with the DOC, and McKoy and Wilson have been suspended pending the outcome of their trials.
DOC Commissioner Joseph Ponte said in a statement on the bust that the department was taking "aggressive steps" to stop contraband from coming into Rikers Island and still launching new measures to go even farther.
"Today we are launching a dedicated team to monitor inmate phone calls, adding broader K-9 searches; and expanding Intel sharing from phone monitoring with DOI," he said. "We have zero tolerance for any illegal behavior in our jails, and we are confident that our ongoing reforms are yielding more capable officers and safer jails.”
Correction Officers' Benevolent Association President Norman Seabrook stressed in a statement that the officers were innocent until proven guilty but said that COBA had "no tolerance" for people who jeopardize the safety of officers.
"We have enough problems maintaining security as it is," he said. "We don’t condone anyone who makes it worse."