Less than a month after a former federal prison guard in Brooklyn pleaded guilty to receiving bribes, another has been arrested.
Quandelle Joseph, a 32-year-old Brooklyn native who has been working for the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) since May 2020, was arrested on Tuesday and is alleged to have received tens of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for smuggling contraband into the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Sunset Park.
Joseph appeared before Magistrate Judge James Cho on Tuesday and was released on $50,000 bond pending trial. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of fifteen years’ imprisonment.
“As alleged, the defendant violated his duty as a correction officer and accepted tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to smuggle contraband into the Metropolitan Detention Center,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace. “By accepting bribes, the defendant violated the public’s trust and promoted conditions that risked the safety of the officers and inmates in the MDC.”
According to the criminal complaint, Joseph’s illicit activities involved accepting bribes from at least two different inmates to smuggle narcotics, cigarettes and cell phones into the MDC.
Joseph allegedly went to great lengths to avoid detection, with one instance involving him entering a unit he was not guarding during a lockdown, opening an inmate’s cell, and providing the contraband. A few hours later, MDC staff smelled marijuana emanating from the inmate’s cell and conducted a search, recovering a contraband cell phone. The inmate had managed to flush the marijuana down the toilet prior to the search.
Further allegations state that Joseph maintained contact with an inmate’s associate outside the facility, even sending a text message in June 2020 that demanded a payment of $12,000. Joseph also allegedly used a “burner” phone to communicate with another inmate about the bribery scheme and warn him about upcoming contraband searches.
On January 26, 2021, Joseph allegedly texted an inmate from whom he was receiving bribes, “[t]ighten up search comin clean phones out call logs n text n try to stash it.” The next day, Joseph texted the inmate “keep your phones cleannnnnnnnnn erase texts and call logs every night.”
Last month, another prison guard, 32- year-old Jeremy Monk, pleaded guilty to receiving bribes in exchange for providing contraband to prison inmates at the MDC. The guilty plea was made in federal court in Brooklyn on March 20, 2023 before U.S. Magistrate Judge James Cho. Monk is still awaiting sentencing and also faces a maximum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment.
The MDC is a federal detention facility operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Opened in the early 1990s, the MDC Brooklyn primarily serves as a holding facility for male and female inmates awaiting trial, sentencing, or transfer to another federal prison. Throughout its history, the MDC Brooklyn has faced several controversies and issues, including allegations of abuse, poor living conditions and administrative problems.
In 2019, during a particularly harsh winter, the detention center experienced a power outage and heating failure that left inmates without heat, hot water, or electricity for several days. The incident sparked outrage among inmates’ families, advocates, and the general public, leading to protests outside the facility and demands for accountability from prison officials.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, correctional facilities nationwide grappled with containing the spread of the virus among both the inmate population and staff. MDC Brooklyn was no exception, and the facility faced significant hurdles in managing the pandemic within its walls. The situation raised concerns about the ability of the detention center to provide adequate healthcare for infected individuals and to protect the safety and well-being of all inmates and employees.
When Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the notorious Mexican drug lord, was tried in the Eastern District of New York, he was not housed at the MDC due to security concerns. El Chapo’s history of escaping from maximum-security prisons in Mexico made him a significant flight risk, and U.S. authorities were determined to prevent any attempts at escape so he was instead kept in the federal prison facility in Manhattan and driven into Brooklyn for court appearances.