By Ian Simpson
(Reuters) - A former prison guard and two others pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges stemming from a sweeping investigation into drug trafficking at Maryland's biggest prison, prosecutors said on Friday.
The ex-corrections officer, Rachelle Hankerson, 26, also pleaded guilty to taking part in the stabbing of a prisoner at the Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, the U.S. Attorney's Office for Maryland said in a statement.
Hankerson, inmate Ramel Chase, 26, and Miguel Matos, 46, a smuggling facilitator, were among 80 people charged with smuggling in narcotics, cell phones, pornographic videos and tobacco in exchange for money and sex with inmates. The indictment was unsealed last month.
The investigation at the medium-security prison was the third major case to target corruption in Maryland's prison system since 2009.
Chase said he had managed a smuggling ring and bribed guards to carry in contraband. Matos admitted to buying drugs and other illicit items to be taken into the prison, and also did financial transactions, it said.
Hankerson admitted she charged at least $500 a package to smuggle in contraband. She also arranged to have an inmate stab another prisoner with whom she had an argument, the statement said.
The three each face up to 20 years in prison for racketeering conspiracy. Hankerson also could be sentenced to 10 years for deprivation of rights under the color of law for the stabbing.
Criminal justice experts said the federal probe was a glimpse at the deep roots of corruption gripping the U.S. corrections system.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by David Gregorio)