Two guards at Rikers Island were arrested on the job Monday for allegedly distributing marijuana, tobacco, and scalpels to inmates for cash. According to a criminal complaint filed in federal court, Austin Romain, and Khalif Phillips, both 31-year-old Brooklynites, worked as guards in the Otis Bantum Correctional Center and the George Vierno Center, and left the contraband in wastebaskets and lockers for two inmates to pick up. Girlfriends of the inmates allegedly helped facilitate the transactions by giving the contraband to the guards and wiring them money via Western Union, and referred to weed and tobacco in text messages and conversations as "spinach and brownies."
Marijuana cost "between $300 and $800 an ounce, depending on the quality of the marijuana," the complaint reads, while scalpels were distributed and sold as a means of protection. Investigators say the contraband was often hidden in several layers of rubber gloves.
The two inmates referenced in the complaint cooperated with the DEA in exchange for lenient sentences, while one of the inmates' girlfriends did so to receive leniency with regard to her participation in the scheme, which spanned nearly two years. "We will not tolerate misuse of authority by those entrusted with supervising incarcerated individuals and keeping them safe, but who instead choose to join them in unlawful activity," U.S. attorney Preet Bharara said in a release.
Romain and Phillips face a maximum of 10 years in prison if convicted. Thirty DOC employees have been arrested for distributing contraband in the last decade. You can read the full criminal complaint below.