Prison Cell

Forty-six corrections officers in Georgia were arrested early Thursday in a sting operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The arrests included both current and former officers, as well as one inmate and two civilians. The undercover operation lasted two years.

"Staggering Corruption" in Georgia Prisons, Says U.S. Attorney

The arrests took place at nine different facilities in the state. There were five members of the Cobra unit, which is an elite squad assigned to stop prison drug dealing. Officers are facing charges for many different offenses, such as bribery, smuggling contraband items like cellphones, tobacco and liquor, and trafficking drugs. Purportedly, thousands of dollars’ worth of bribes was paid for the trafficking of meth and cocaine. The cellphones were used to commit identity theft, money laundering and fraud.

According to the Atlanta FBI office’s special agent in charge, contraband cellphones are a huge problem in prisons. He said that those who have been sentenced to prison can still "direct crime on the streets from their jail cells." He also referenced a North Carolina prisoner who was able to set up the capture of a hostage by using a cellphone while in prison. The agent said that it is a "breakdown of the judicial system."

The 49 individuals (46 officers, one inmate and two civilians) were expected to appear in small groups before a federal magistrate on Thursday. The U.S. Marshals were then expected to take custody of the individuals until they appear at trial.

Federal Charges Require Special Consideration

Federal crimes such as those listed above have significant penalties, including federal prison time, hefty fines and more. The federal court procedures, rules and criminal statutes are complex. This means that someone who is facing federal charges needs representation by a lawyer who is experienced in federal court proceedings. If a case involves multiple defendants, there could be plea bargains offered for those who testify against other defendants.

Because of the scale of the sting in question, the prosecution may seek maximum penalties against many of those involved. An experienced attorney is needed in order to develop a strong defense against these serious federal charges.