15 plead guilty in Maryland prison contraband scheme involving drones

Fifteen people have pleaded guilty for their roles in a prison contraband scheme in Maryland that included the use of drones to smuggle drugs, cellphones and other items into a state prison, the state’s attorney general announced.

The guilty pleas came seven months after Attorney General Anthony Brown first announced that a correctional officer and civilians had been indicted on charges that they assisted inmates in illegal activity at the Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, Maryland.

"Safety is as important in our correctional institutions as it is to the public in our neighborhoods and communities," Brown said in a news release this week. "This meticulous investigation and subsequent convictions send a clear message that we will not tolerate crime or corruption within our correctional facilities that disrupts the goals of rehabilitation."

An investigation began in April 2022, after authorities recovered drugs and other contraband that had been smuggled into the prison after an inmate returned to the facility from a hospital visit.

The AG’s investigative team "uncovered a complex web of conspiracies operating to smuggle drugs and other contraband into RCI by way of an employee, drones, and outside civilians who were recruited over social media," according to the news release.


Last month, Brown announced additional charges against one of the RCI inmates, Jose Miguel Tapia. Tapia created a fake court commitment document and impersonated a representative from a state’s attorney’s office in an attempt to secure his unlawful early release from prison, the attorney general said.

The forged document, imprinted with the seal of the clerk of the circuit court, purported to award Tapia 449 days of credit for time served against his sentence in an effort to get him an early release, Brown said.

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From his prison cell, Tapia electronically faxed the fake order to the clerk of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City and, assuming the identity of a representative from the state’s attorney’s office, called the clerk’s office to request that it be processed, according to the news release.

The clerk’s office recognized that the commitment was forged, the attorney general’s office said. Tapia was sentenced to 14 additional years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.