City employees arrested for allegedly smuggling weapons, drugs into Brownsville juvenile detention center

employees arrested smuggling contraband brownsville youth center
Five current and former city employees have been arrested for allegedly smuggling contraband into a Brownsville youth detention center.
Photos courtesy of EnvatoElements/Getty Images

Five current and former city employees are facing state and federal criminal charges for allegedly smuggling drugs and weapons into a secure juvenile detention facility in Brownsville.

Law enforcement officials arrested the suspects on Wednesday morning, according to the U.S. District Attorney in the Eastern District of New York, after a lengthy investigation. 

Four of the defendants — Da’Vante Bolton, Roger Francis, Christopher Craig, and Nigel King — are actively employed by the city’s Administration for Children’s Services as Youth Development Specialists at the Crossroads Juvenile Center in Brownsville.

The fifth, Octavia Napier, worked at Crossroads as a Youth Development Specialist for just over a year, but was fired last spring when she was suspected of smuggling contraband into the facility, according to court documents.

crossroads juvenile detention center in brownsville
The five defendants allegedly smuggled contraband into the Crossroads Juvenile Detention Center in Brownsville. Photo courtesy of Google Maps

Federal officials have charged all five defendants with conspiracy to commit bribery under the federal Travel Act, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. They are expected to appear in Brooklyn Federal Court on Wednesday afternoon. 

Crossroads is a city-operated secure detention facility for young people who have been accused of serious felonies or misdemeanors. Secure detention facilities are meant to “[ensure] the young person appears in court on time while keeping the young person and the community safe,” according to ACS

Drugs, cell phones, alcohol, weapons, and cigarettes are banned from Crossroads, per court documents, and staff — like employees at city jails and prisons — are meant to search for and confiscate any contraband. Staffers are also supposed to be searched for contraband every time they enter the building. 

However, between March 2022 and May 2024, roughly 75 phones and 340 razor blades were found inside the facility — as were drugs and narcotics, per court documents. At least some of that contraband appeared to have been smuggled in by employees in exchange for cash.

The five defendants arrested on Wednesday allegedly smuggled in razor blades, marijuana, phones, prescription pills, and alcohol into the facility between 2018 and 2024 and received a combined $50,800 in cash from Crossroads residents and their family members. 

“As alleged, these so-called ‘Youth Development Specialists’ violated their duty to the City and the residents at Crossroads by smuggling in weapons, drugs, and other  contraband in exchange for bribes, placing young people and other staff members at an alarming  risk of serious harm,” stated U.S. Attorney Breon Peace, in a statement. “Today’s arrests demonstrate  that this Office remains committed to rooting out corruption and cleaning up our city’s jails and  juvenile detention facilities.” 

Bolton is accused of receiving the largest sum of cash — $20,000 between November 2022 and February 2024. Per court filings, two illegal cell phones found in the facility in September 2023 contained text exchanges that appeared to implicate Bolton in smuggling in contraband.

Phone records appear to show the resident texting with friends and family members, requesting items like marijuana — then those friends texting with Bolton.

Other phone records appear to show residents routinely texting Bolton and the other defendants asking for drugs, weapons, food, and more and sending payment for those items. Napier, who was fired in 2023, also allegedly allowed a resident to use her Cash App account to run his own contraband business. 

In a statement, New York City Department of Investigation commissioner Jocelyn E. Strauber said ACS had reported their findings to the DOI — which led to a joint investigation by the DOI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

brooklyn federal court
The defendants were expected in Brooklyn Federal Court on Wednesday afternoon. File photo courtesy of Ajay Suresh/Wikimedia Commons

An ACS spox said the department will suspend any of the accused employees who are still working at Crossroads “immediately,” but did not confirm which of the four defendants currently employed by ACS were still actively working at Crossroads.

“ACS’ first priority is always keeping our young people safe,” the spox said in a statement. “Anyone who violates that mission has no place working for ACS. We appreciate the partnership of DOI and the FBI in helping us to weed out the behavior alleged today” 

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in prison. 

Youth jails like Crossroads are reportedly badly under-funded and understaffed. Earlier this month, hundreds of people came forward after allegedly being sexually abused by staffers at juvenile detention centers in the city, including at Crossroads.