Two city correction officers have pleaded guilty to accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to smuggle drugs and cellphones into Rikers Island for alleged Bloods gang members, federal prosecutors said Tuesday in a release.
Krystle Burrell, a 35-year-old Nassau County resident, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court to accepting $9,780 in bribes from an incarcerated man, Terrae Hinds, in exchange for smuggling at least two cellphones onto Rikers Island, prosecutors said. In court filings, prosecutors said they believe Hinds to be a member of the Bloods gang.
Another correction officer, 31-year-old Queens resident Katrina Patterson, pleaded guilty in August to accepting over $34,000 in bribes in exchange for smuggling in drugs and cellphones onto Rikers Island for Michael Ross, an incarcerated member of the Bloods gang, prosecutors said.
Ross pleaded guilty to the bribery offense and is awaiting sentencing, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
“The defendants threw in their lot with Bloods gang members and betrayed their sworn duty to maintain the safety of incarcerated individuals and other correction officers at Rikers Island by smuggling cell phones and drugs into the jail,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.
Patterson accepted bribes between October 2020 and at least March 2021, according to her indictment. She faces up to five years in prison, officials said.
“Last month, Ms. Patterson stood before Judge Amon and admitted the serious mistakes she made while working on Rikers Island,” Patterson’s attorney Matthew Keller said in a statement. “Katrina became a corrections officer with the goal of helping the troubled and neglected youth of this city. She has accepted responsibility for the mistakes she made, and she looks forward to moving past this episode and pursuing that goal in some other capacity.”
Burrell supplied at least two cellphones to Hinds at some point after he arrived on Rikers Island in May 2021, according to their indictment. He made hundreds of calls, including more than 200 calls to Burrell herself, officials said.
On July 23, 2021, the Department of Correction searched Hinds’ cell and found a phone and a charger, court documents show. In the same housing area, they found another phone prosecutors believe once belonged to Burrell based on the phone having previously connected to “Krystle’s AirPods.”
The same day, the city’s Department of Investigation and a federal agent sat down with Burrell for a voluntary interview, according to court documents. In the interview, Burrell first denied bringing a phone to Rikers before saying she helped bring the phone in because she was threatened with a weapon.
Officials also believe Burrell was accepting payment from other people incarcerated on Rikers Island via the payment apps Cash App and Zelle in exchange for contraband, including K2, a synthetic marijuana substitute. Some of the money went to paying off her car, according to prosecutors.
Burrell and Hinds may have been in a romantic relationship, investigators wrote in the indictment. Charges against Hinds remain pending, according to a release.
Initially, Burrell was suspended for 30 days by the Department of Correction, stripped of her badge and gun, and placed on modified duty. Prosecutors said Tuesday the city still employed her and Patterson, and the department did not return a request for comment.
Burrell faces up to 10 years in prison.
Attorneys for Burrell, Hinds, Ross and other co-defendants did not return requests for comment as of Wednesday morning.
The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association also did not return a request for comment.