Corrections Officer and Three Inmates Among Seven Charged in Alleged Plot to Smuggle Contraband into Cook County Jail
CHICAGO—Nearly three ounces of marijuana was confiscated after it was found hidden inside two sandwiches that a Cook County corrections officer allegedly tried to smuggle into the Cook County Jail last year in exchange for a $200 bribe. As a result of that seizure and an allegedly broader conspiracy, the corrections officer, three inmates, two civilians, and a Chicago police dispatcher are facing federal charges in connection with alleged smuggling of marijuana and other contraband into the jail, sheriff’s department and federal law enforcement officials announced today.
In June 2013, three jail inmates allegedly conspired with two civilian women to bribe JASON MAREK, a corrections officer for the Cook County Department of Corrections since May 2011, to bring marijuana, cigarettes, tobacco, alcohol, food and other contraband into the jail for inmates’ consumption and for further distribution within the jail, according to a threecount criminal complaint that was filed yesterday and unsealed today.
According to the charges, an ounce of marijuana, which sells for approximately $200 outside the jail, could be sold for five times as much, or $1,000, inside the jail.
Marek, also known as “Murder” and “Murda,” 29, formerly of Orland Park, was assigned to the 3 to 11 p.m. shift at CCJ, Division 9, Tier 2H, when the alleged marijuana smuggling was thwarted on June 21, 2013. He was arrested this morning and was released on his own recognizance after appearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey T. Gilbert in Federal Court.
Between June 15 and 24, 2013, three jail inmates—THADIEUS GOODS, PRINCE JOHNSON, and LAVANGELIST POWELL—who were housed in the same tier where Marek was assigned, allegedly conspired with two women to bribe Marek to smuggle the marijuana and other contraband into the jail. During a recorded telephone call from the jail on June 15, 2013, Goods told his wife, PEARLISA STEVENSON, that, with her help, he had the opportunity to make some money by selling marijuana inside the jail as long as he also had a corrections officer willing to help him.
“Rooting out corruption in the Cook County Jail is a top priority of mine,” said Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart. “I’m thankful to our federal partners at the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for working closely with my staff to conduct such a thorough investigation and to charge this far-reaching case.”
The arrests and charges were announced by Sheriff Dart, together with Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert J. Holley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The investigation was a joint effort between the FBI and the Sheriff’s Office of Professional Responsibility, with Sheriff Dart’s full support, to improve the security and integrity within the Cook County Jail.
Goods, also known as “Big Weasy,” “Weasy,” and “Wang,” 36, of Calumet Park; Johnson, aka “Primo,” 32; and Powell, aka “JuJu” and “Juicy,” 22, both of Chicago, remain in state custody and will be transferred to face the federal charges on a date yet to be determined.
Stevenson, aka “Wang Wang,” 29, and NATOSHA McCOLLUM, aka “Tasha,” 21, who is Powell’s girlfriend, both of Chicago, were arrested this morning and were released on their own recognizance after appearing before Magistrate Gilbert.
Those six defendants ― Marek, Goods, Johnson, Powell, Stevenson, and McCollum ― were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana.
The seventh defendant, STEPHANIE LEWIS, 40, of Chicago, a “supervisor police operations” in the police dispatch group in the city of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, and who is Johnson’s girlfriend, was arrested last night. She was charged with one count of illegally accessing a law enforcement computer to assist the alleged extortion and drug distribution conspiracy. Lewis and three others ― Powell, Johnson, and McCollum ― were also charged with conspiracy to access a law enforcement computer to further extortion and a drug conspiracy.
Lewis was also released on her own recognizance. Marek, Stevenson, McCollum, and Lewis were each ordered to return to court at 9:30 a.m. Friday for a status hearing before Magistrate Gilbert.
According to a 48-page complaint affidavit, Goods and Powell pre-sold marijuana to inmates within the CCJ. In June 2013, inmates transferred funds to Stevenson and McCollum via the jail’s Inmate Trust Account system, allegedly to purchase marijuana and other contraband, which Goods, Powell, and Johnson expected to be brought into the jail. After collecting the money from other inmates, McCollum and Stevenson discussed with Goods and Powell their efforts to purchase marijuana from drug dealers outside the jail. Johnson and Lewis allegedly coordinated the delivery of contraband to Stevenson for delivery into the jail, and on June 21, 2013, Stevenson delivered the marijuana and other banned goods to Marek. At the same time, McCollum and Stevenson paid Marek a $200 bribe to smuggle the contraband into the jail. Marek attempted to deliver the marijuana to Goods but was intercepted by the FBI and the Sheriff’s Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility as he entered the jail.
After Marek failed to deliver the marijuana and contraband, Goods, Powell, and Johnson allegedly worked with McCollum and Lewis to obtain Marek’s home address and information about his family to threaten Marek and convince him to bring additional contraband into the jail. Johnson allegedly contacted Lewis and, after informing her that Marek had accepted a bribe but failed to deliver the goods, asked Lewis to provide Marek’s personal information, including his home address and names of family members because Johnson and Goods planned to send their associates to Marek’s house. After receiving Marek’s license plate number from McCollum, Lewis allegedly conducted an inquiry of Marek’s license plate on an OEMC computer linked to an Illinois State Police database, which queried the National Crime Information Center database, and Lewis then provided Marek’s home address to Johnson, the complaint alleges.
In June 2013, Good, Powell, and Johnson were housed in the jail’s Division 9, Tier 2H, where Marek was assigned for a 90-day rotation. Tier 2H is located on the second floor of the south tower of Division 9, which is located at 2834 West 31st St., Chicago, and is comprised of two interconnected three-story buildings that house general population male inmates with a maximum security classification.
Each count of the complaint carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.
The government is being represented by Assistant United States Attorneys Megan Church and Michelle Nasser.
The public is reminded that a complaint contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.