Corrupt ex-Rikers guard gives stunning account of smuggling drugs for inmate to sell




  • In US
  • 2022-11-28 23:46:00Z
  • By NY Daily News

A corrupt former Rikers Island guard detailed how he used to smuggle pot into the notorious jail complex, providing testimony Monday against a detainee accused of bribing correction officers to bring in drugs for him to sell.

Guard-turned-federal cooperator Patrick Legerme described how he struck a deal with inmate James Albert, who allegedly sold drugs to hundreds of his fellow inmates.

Albert's lawyers contend that Legerme, 32, is pointing the finger at Albert, 46, in exchange for a chance at leniency.

Legerme was just six months out of the city Correction Academy when he struck a deal with Albert in June 2019, the former guard told a federal jury in Brooklyn.

Albert "ran" the housing unit of the George R. Vierno Center where he was locked up at, Legerne alleged, saying that the prisoner started asking him if he would smuggle in contraband.

At first, Legerme said no, he said.

"I was extremely nervous," he told the jury. Still, he didn't report Albert to jail officials, he added.

But he couldn't make his rent or pay for his daughter's private school tuition, so instead of finding a legitimate way to earn a second income, he eventually went along with the scheme in June 2019, he said.

Legerne and Albert passed each other small pieces of paper - with the guard giving Legerme his Cash App account name and the prisoner giving him a woman's phone number, he testified.

He called the number and met with a woman at the Burger King on Fulton St. and Nostrand Ave. in Brooklyn, he said. She handed him a black bag, said very little, and left.

When Legerme looked in the bag, he found an oval-shaped item wrapped in black tape. The roughly 1-pound package smelled like marijuana, he testified.

The question of how contraband gets into Rikers became the focus of a City Council hearing last month, with Correction Department officials saying detainees receive paper and other items in the mail soaked with fentanyl. Six of the 18 deaths in city jails this year have been attributed to drug overdoses.

After picking up the package, Legerme eventually brought it to work by slipping it into his crotch under his gym tights, covering up with a loose-fitting Correction Officer uniform and walking through the metal detectors at Rikers, he testified.

"If there's no metal on you, it wouldn't ring and you would walk right through. If it did ring, they would pat you down," Legerme said.

The device didn't ring.

The guard walked into the staff locker room, grabbed a brown paper bag - the kind typically used for guards to give prisoners their commissary items - and headed for the bathroom of the staff cafeteria, where he dropped the pot into the bag, he said.

He also put in two apples and found Albert standing by his jail cell, he said.

"I remember him taking an apple out of the bag, and I remember him saying, 'Thank you,'" Legerne testified.

Legerne said he didn't deliver any more packages to Albert since he didn't want the scrutiny that came from Albert selling the drugs - but he provided the same illegal service to other prisoners, making nearly $12,000 in all.

He was caught in October 2019 when Department of Investigation officials brought a drug-sniffing dog into the complex, he said. The canine smelled something on Legerne, and though he wasn't carrying any drugs, he was found to have a package of K2 in his car, he said.

At the Council hearing last month, Correction Commissioner Louis Molina acknowledged that while visitors go through body scanning devices, which check for hidden items carried inside clothing, civilian and uniformed staff don't get body-scanned because of the "antiquated" layout of the areas where staff enter the jails, and the cost.

Albert's lawyer, Anthony Cecuttil, tried to chip away at Legerme's credibility during his cross-examination, getting the former guard - who now works as a truck driver - to say that he didn't consider omitting the truth to be the same as lying.

He suggested that Legerme took packages into Rikers for other prisoners before Albert asked, and brought up an earlier statement to authorities that the bundle he got at the Burger King didn't smell of pot. Legerme said he didn't remember that statement.

Albert is serving a 23-year state prison sentence for a 2019 robbery conviction, according to court records. He was arrested in a 2020 sweep that netted 21 suspects, including six correction officers. He could face a combined 15 years if convicted of the two federal charges he now faces.

His trial is slated to continue through the week.

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