Feds: NJ Corrections Officer Arrested For Smuggling Contraband into Jail
An Essex County corrections officer and his girlfriend have been arrested for allegedly conspiring to smuggle contraband into the prison facility at which he was employed.
34-year-old Efrin Wade and 29-year-old Yairisa Lizardo, both of Jersey City, are charged by complaint with extortion under color of official right.
U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger's office says this past January, Wade, who has been a corrections officer at Essex County Correctional Facility (ECCF) since early 2020, began communicating with an individual whom he believed was seeking to smuggle contraband to inmates at that jail to sell to other inmates.
Unbeknownst to Wade, the person he was talking to was an undercover FBI agent.
Wade allegedly agreed to smuggle tobacco and cell phones, both of which inmates at ECCF are forbidden to possess.
- On Feb. 1, 2023, Wade sent Lizardo to meet with the undercover agent in a parking lot in Bayonne, New Jersey, where she accepted $10,000 in cash and a substantial quantity of tobacco for Wade to smuggle into ECCF. Over the subsequent weeks, Wade left this tobacco in concealed locations within ECCF believing it would be retrieved by inmates. However, law enforcement recovered these items after Wade relayed the concealed locations to the undercover agent.
- On Feb. 8, 2023, Wade met the undercover agent in a parking lot in Jersey City, where Wade took possession of a cell phone concealed within tobacco. After smuggling this contraband into ECCF, law enforcement recovered it in a concealed location where Wade had left it for inmates to retrieve.
- On Feb. 15, 2023, Wade met with the undercover agent in the same parking lot in Jersey City and accepted an additional $4,000 for his smuggling activities. Wade also explained his plans to smuggle in an additional 15 contraband cell phones, which were to be supplied to him by the undercover agent.
Sellinger says Wade expected to be paid at least $30,000 for smuggling cell phones into the jail in late March.
Wade expected that the cell phones would then be resold to inmates for approximately $5,000 per phone.
When approached by agents during his shift at ECCF during the early morning hours of March 14, 2023, Wade was found to be in possession of multiple packs of contraband cigarettes as well as tobacco packs and cigars.
The extortion charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The pair appeared in Newark federal court Wednesday and were released on $100,000 each unsecured bond.
The public is reminded that charges are accusations and all persons are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.