A former corrections officer at the Monroe Correctional Complex was sentenced Friday to 18 months in prison for accepting bribes for smuggling contraband into the facility. Michael W. Bowden, 31, of Everett pleaded guilty on Jan. 9 to extortion under color of official right.
Bowden had been working at the MCC since July 2013, when the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed three charges of extortion under color of official right and one count of attempted distribution of methamphetamine last October.
The complaint states the FBI was called in by the Department of Corrections Intelligence and Investigations Unit in December 2015, to investigate allegations Bowden was smuggling contraband into the prison.
In June 2016, the chief investigator at the MCC provided the FBI with “detailed information received from a cooperating inmate,” which was that Bowden had allegedly solicited and received a $100 bribe to smuggle in packages of chewing tobacco on at least five occasions, according to the federal complaint. The inmate said Bowden met with an acquaintance of his outside the prison.
The FBI pulled cellphone records for Bowden, the complaint states, identifying at least 60 text messages between the inmate’s acquaintance and the prison guard.
That acquaintance met with the FBI and agreed to be a confidential source, confirming meeting with Bowden at least five times between January and April, where the prison guard allegedly took payment and delivered tobacco to the inmate, the complaint states. Cellphone records allegedly confirm text correspondence from November 2015 to April, according to the complaint.
The confidential source told investigators the inmate brought allegations forward because Bowden had wanted to make more money, offering to deliver “hard stuff.”
The complaint states the inmate cooperated without the promise of reduced prison time, but he and the confidential source did request to remain at the prison and have modified visitation rights.
During the investigation, Bowden worked in three units, which were Intensive Management (maximum security), Washington State Reformatory (medium) and the Twin Rivers Unit (TRU), a medium and minimum security unit.
In May 2016, a Department of Corrections investigator reported several inmates, including the first, making claims of Bowden smuggling heroin using chewing tobacco cans, using the prison computer system to identify for other inmates the status and locations of other inmates and smuggling methamphetamine.
According to the complaint, at least 56 inmates tested positive on urinalysis tests, with the majority being for methamphetamine. There were seven positive UAs at TRU in 2015.
In July, the FBI used the confidential source to set up an exchange through text message, which was recorded electronically, according to the complaint, investigators later monitoring and recording the exchange of money and tobacco in Everett. During that meeting, Bowden allegedly told the confidential source that other inmates who had been caught with contraband were “ratting” on him.
The complaint states the FBI then decided to try getting Bowden to smuggle a SIM card for cash, which the prison guard allegedly delayed because he had been approached by superiors about accusations of smuggling contraband.
During that meeting Bowden was allegedly recorded talking about knowing other guards were smuggling contraband, bringing in methamphetamine, not heroin, and how he hates snitches and being patted down at work, the complaint states.
On Aug. 29, the complaint states the cooperating inmate told a DOC investigator that Bowden wanted the confidential source to call him to set up a meeting, where the source would provide him with $1,000 and a half-ounce of meth for delivery. The inmate told investigators he had also spoken with Bowden about providing the prison guard with a cut of the profits from selling the meth.
The complaint states the confidential source and Bowden met in Everett on Sept. 20, where the source provided Bowden with a substance made to look like meth, a can of chewing tobacco and $1,000. The chief DOC investigator contacted the FBI later that day to confirm the inmate had turned over the fake meth he allegedly received from Bowden, the complaint states.
Bowden was arrested on Sept. 28, and, according to the MCC, he resigned that day.
Extortion under color of official right and attempted distribution of methamphetamine are both punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and fines of $250,000 and $1 million, respectively.
U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones handed down the 18 month sentence on Friday.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office states in a March 31 news release that the head of the MCC had submitted a letter to the court describing the risks of contraband and smuggling, citing a death that occurred at the prison shortly before Bowden attempted to bring fake meth into the facility. An inmate died from an overdose, the letter states, from hiding methamphetamine.
“Any contraband inside a prison is a serious issue, however, the specific presence of methamphetamine inside the prison endangers inmates and staff to additional risk as trades are made and debts are accrued, which often leads to increased violence,” wrote Michael Obenland, Superintendent of the Monroe Correctional Complex.