Jury: CO helped run organized crime ring out of Philly jail cell

The nine-year veteran is accused of taking more than $23,000 in bribes over two months last year


By Samantha Melamed
The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — A man incarcerated in a Philadelphia jail was readily able to obtain mobile phones and drugs, and to direct the delivery of an AR-15 assault rifle to an associate looking to avenge a murder in Southwest Philadelphia.

All he had to do, according to a grand jury presentment unsealed Wednesday, was place an order with the Pizza Man.

That was the nickname, according to court documents, of Correctional Officer Khalif Workman, 30. The nine-year veteran of the department is accused of taking more than $23,000 in bribes over two months last year in return for helping a prisoner, Barry "Bones" Garland, run a criminal enterprise from Riverside Correctional Facility, a city jail.

Workman, Garland, and an alleged coconspirator were arrested in September on corrupt organization charges, while a fourth man was charged with illegal gun possession and other offenses. A warrant has been issued for the arrest of a fifth person, Ashline Garcia Cruz, while others remain under investigation, the District Attorney's Office said.

Workman was released on $500,000 unsecured bail. He hung up without commenting when reached by phone Thursday. Garland remains in jail, represented by the city public defender's office, which declined to comment on his behalf.

Assistant District Attorney Daniel Margolskee said additional arrests are being made in connection to the conspiracy.

"What's quite remarkable and shocking is that from within the prison he was able to ... direct the illegal transfer of an AR-15, in connection with or in response to the murder of one of his colleagues on the outside, which is part of the perpetuation of the cycle of violence."

The alleged crimes span the summer and fall of 2021, a year when staff and prisoners at the jail often described the air there as thick with the chemical haze of K2, a synthetic drug. That year, 18 people incarcerated at the Philadelphia Department of Prisons died, including three by homicide and at least four by drug overdose. This year, at least nine more have died at the complex, which houses about 4,500 people awaiting trial or serving short sentences on State Road in Northeast Philadelphia.

The presentment details how Garland was able to direct the sale of drugs, cell block by cell block, across a network within the jails. E Block, he texted to one coconspirator, should be "pullin in at least $500 a day."

District Attorney Larry Krasner said he had briefed the mayor, prison commissioner, and police commissioner on the charges. He said the case reflected the challenges faced by the jails during the pandemic, during which "despite best efforts, opportunities for criminal conduct were created."

A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Department of Prisons said in a statement that the jails have turned to new technology, including "state-of-the-art mail scanning" and "body scanning" of incarcerated people. "We are in the process of installing the scanners for staff at all facility entrances," the statement said.

Text messages screenshotted within the filing also suggest the operation was funding the purchase of guns, in a year when shootings in the city reached historic highs. Garland texted that his associates in the community "need more guns so I need money to do that."

An expert brought in last year, as part of a federal class-action lawsuit filed by prisoners' rights advocates over conditions at the jail, concluded that understaffing and lax enforcement had allowed contraband to flow freely through the jails. Analyzing the department's data, he noted that while workers had undertaken more than 40,000 cell searches in 2019, they did just 2,000 in 2021 — yet, they found five times more contraband.

Another correctional officer, Haneef Lawton, was also arrested for smuggling drugs and phones into the jails last year. Lawton pleaded guilty in federal court and is awaiting sentencing.

According to the presentment, a corrections officer, acting on a tip, discovered contraband in Garland's cell in October 2021. Workman resigned days later.

David Robinson, the president of the correctional officers' union, Local 159 of AFSCME District Council 33, said he was not aware of the former officer's arrest. He said the K2 problem inside the jails has improved and last year's recurring riots appear to have ebbed.

"But," he added, "it's still dangerous. There's still a lot of craziness that goes on there. There's still blocks are unmanned at times because there's no staff."

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