Federal Jail Secretary Charged With Smuggling Phones to Suspect in Rapper's Kidnapping

Three employees at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in lower Manhattan have been charged with secretly bringing phones, alcohol and cigarettes to inmates in the facility, the Associated Press reported. One employee even penned a letter to a judge saying an inmate she was taking bribes from was a "model" resident of prison, now closed for renovations.

All three were charged with conspiracy charges as well as honest services wire fraud.

Jail secretary Sharon Griffith-McKnight wrote the letter to a judge on behalf of former inmate Anthony Ellison, who was imprisoned for the kidnapping of rapper Tekashi69. Ellison was a high-ranking member of the Nine Trey Bloods gang.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a release that MCC guards Perry Joyner and Mario Feliciano, along with Griffith-McKnight, "undermined the institution they swore to serve by conspiring with the very inmates they are charged to protect."

"The guards we've arrested today acted like nothing more than the criminals in their charge and assisted incarcerated offenders in committing more crimes," said Michael J. Driscoll, head of New York's FBI office.

The facility made news following the death of financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was found unresponsive in his cell in August of 2019. He was awaiting trial for sex trafficking charges. Epstein's death was later ruled a suicide.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Metropolitan Correctional Center, Smuggling, Rapper
Three employees at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan are accused of smuggling goods to inmates. Above, the Metropolitan Correctional Center is seen from a courtroom at the Manhattan Federal courthouse. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Conspiracy charges against all the defendants and honest services wire fraud and narcotics conspiracy charges against most of them were contained in an indictment unsealed in Manhattan federal court. Two Bureau of Prisons employees also face obstruction of justice charges.

Griffith-McKnight called Ellison a "model inmate," even though she was smuggling contraband including multiple cellphones to him at the time, authorities said in a news release. Ellison was among inmates charged Thursday in the MCC contraband scheme.

At Ellison's November 2020 sentencing, the judge relied in part on the letter to say that his good jail behavior was "impressive" and that his time at the MCC contained "a lot of good" unless "this is some sort of Grisham novel, and people are corrupt and making all of this up," the release said. Ellison was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

A lawyer for Griffith-McKnight did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Emails seeking comment were sent to previous lawyers for Ellison.

Closed recently for extensive renovations, the MCC has held notorious criminals over the years, including John Gotti, El Chapo, Bernard Madoff and terrorists.

The timing of the alleged crimes spanning October 2019 through January 2021 suggests they were discovered after scrutiny fell on the facility following the death of Epstein.

Lawyers for Joyner and Feliciano did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Feliciano no longer works for the Bureau of Prisons.