A former New York City correction officer detailed his role in sneaking drugs onto Rikers Island – a process that involved hiding pounds of marijuana in a brown paper bag topped with apples – during a federal trial on Monday.

In his testimony, the ex-guard, Patrick Legerme, said he began smuggling marijuana and K2, a synthetic cannabinoid, into the jails complex beginning in 2019, collecting more than $10,000 in bribes from detainees before he was eventually caught.

“I brought in contraband into jails,” said Legerme, a 32-year-old Queens resident. “I wore gym tights and put the package in my groin area and wore my work uniform over it.”

The admission came on the first day of the trial of James Albert, a former Rikers inmate facing federal charges for allegedly running a “large-scale” drug operation while incarcerated on Rikers Island.

Legerme, who previously pleaded guilty for his role in the operation, agreed to testify in exchange for consideration of a lighter sentence. Both men were arrested in 2020 as part of a federal smuggling sting that took down half a dozen city correction officers and five Rikers Island detainees.

The trial comes as health officials warn of a substance abuse crisis in the beleaguered jail complex that has led to hundreds of overdoses, including four confirmed fatalities last year. Drug seizures have also spiked, particularly in the early days of the pandemic, when visitors were banned from the jail, according to reporting in The City.

Despite mounting scrutiny, correction officials have insisted guards are not a significant source of drugs in city jails. The head of the correction officers’ union, Benny Boscio, previously pointed to body scanners that prevent guards from bringing in contraband.

At times, Legerme’s testimony appeared to undercut those arguments.

Since jail officials are only required to walk through a metal detector, he said it was easy enough to bring in drugs by tucking them between his legs, then securing the package with spandex.

“If there’s no metal, you can walk right through,” he said.

Once inside the facility, Legerme said he would head to the locker room, disguising the contraband before handing it off to the detainee inside the housing unit.

“I put the item in a brown paper bag and added two apples and brought it to the commissary,” he recalled.

In each case, he said, the drugs were provided by a source outside the jail, who would also send him money – roughly $1,000 per shipment – over Cash App. It was widely understood, he added, that Albert and others were selling the drugs to fellow detainees.

Though Legerme and Albert only worked on one sale, prosecutors said Albert was the leader of a group that distributed narcotics, including marijuana and K2, to some 200 detainees.

“He would throw hints like you would be surprised who’s bringing in for me,” Legerme told jurors, referring to other correction officers who were allegedly in on the operation.

An attorney for Albert, meanwhile, urged suspicion of Legerme’s description of events, noting the former guard’s incentive to help his own case by testifying.

Albert’s brother, Shanduke McPhatter, also told Gothamist he was concerned that his sibling was being set up as a ringleader, questioning why federal prosecutors would cut a deal with a corrupt guard.

“Doesn’t this [correction officer] have culpability?” he said outside the courtroom. “The guards have the power here, it makes no sense.”

Albert faces five years in prison. Legerme pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to violate the Travel Act last year, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, though his cooperation may reduce that total.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Correction, Shayla Mulzac, said the agency has “zero tolerance for anyone who brings contraband into our jails, whether you are staff, a contracted provider who provides previously incarcerated individuals employment opportunities, or a volunteer.”

She added the agency had increased its tactical search options, recovering more than 1,000 pieces of drug-related contraband this year.

Inquiries to the union representing guards, the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, were not returned.