Law enforcements job doesn't end after a case has been closed. Many members of our local law enforcement go to work everyday with the individuals who have been punished in a court of law. Those officers are our Corrections Officers and in many instances, they don't get the credit they have earned or deserve. That in part, is why some recent news out of Westchester County is so disappointing.

Westchester County Contraband and Bribe Investigation

Late last week an announcement came from the Westchester County District Attorney's Office about a recent investigation that had taken place concerning the issue of contraband that evidently had made its way into the Westchester County Jail in Valhalla, New York.

Under Investigation follder

Through the official press release from the DA's office and the Westchester County Department of Corrections (WCDOC), it was announced that multiple civilian employees as well as multiple Corrections Officers were arraigned on charges for accepting bribe payments and smuggling contraband to incarcerated individuals at the jail.

Photo by Daniel Bernard on Unsplash
Photo by Daniel Bernard on Unsplash

In the announcement, the disappointment expressed by District Attorney Miriam E. Rocah and the Westchester County Department of Correction Commissioner Joseph K. Spano was palpable.

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DA Rocah stated that in part...

These defendants put their own interests above the safety of incarcerated individuals, employees, civilians, and other correction officers. Our jails become less safe when correction officers and others in position of public trust accept bribes to smuggle in contraband...

This followed by a statement from Commissioner Spano, where he stated...

The involved correction officers have disgraced the shield that they once wore and violated the trust we put in them to uphold the law and work with integrity.

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Identifying the Accused and Charges They Face

In total, this recent investigation resulted in five arrests. Each individual has been charged with various counts of Bribe Receiving and Promoting Prison Contraband. Bribe Receiving is considered a felony offence, while the Promoting of Prison Contraband is considered a misdemeanor.

Handcuffs laying on top of fingerprint chart in file
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Each individual was also charged according to the number of instances that they are alleged to have accepted bribes or promoted contraband. The alleged payments received by each of the suspects also varied. The lowest number allegedly received was by one suspect was $500, while another suspect allegedly received more than $2000.

The suspects were identified in the following order...

  • Peter Cumberbatch, 39, of New Rochelle
  • Shakia Smythe, 32, of Peekskill
  • Wilfredo Gonzague, 36, of Briarcliff Manor
  • Sadari Holt, 30, of the Bronx
  • Shardae Moore, 35, of Yonkers
Pile of Money
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It was noted that Cumberbatch and Smythe were CO's assigned to the Westchester County Jail and that Gonzague was a former CO at the facility. As for Holt and Moore, they were identified as being contracted vendors that provided commissary services for the jail.

The press release also mentioned another arrest that had taken place last month, where the suspect in that case faces similar charges. This arrest was of 40-year old, Sean Rodgers of Mount Vernon and he was a civilian jailor at the Mount Vernon Police Department.

cropped image of prison officer wearing handcuffs on prisoner
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It's alleged that Rodgers delivered three cylindrical objects wrapped in electrical tape containing a leafy substance to an incarcerated individual awaiting a court appearance at the MVPD Cell Block on March 11. Rodgers was also charged with Promoting Prison Contraband in the Second Degree and is expected back in court on July 9.

This investigation and following arrests share some similarities with a story WPDH covered back in April of this year, where a number of arrests were made at various Corrections facilities throughout New York State over one weekend and the arrested individuals were visitors to the jails. You may read about that story in the link below.

New York Corrections Facilities Crack Down on Weekend Visitors

The press concluded with a listing and thanks for the various departments that worked on this investigation. Lastly, for those who wish to see the list of charges and accusations against all the accused, please refer to the official press release linked up above.

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