by Keith Sanders
Smuggling contraband into prison – like the synthetic cannabinoid known as K2 or “spice” – is a ubiquitous problem. There is an opportunity to quickly make significant money when an 8 x 11 sheet of paper sprayed with liquid K2 can sell for up to $32,000. But when a top official in one of the country’s largest cities – one who earns a salary of $120,000 – is indicted for money laundering in a scheme to smuggle drugs into a state prison, then you know the problem has gotten out of control.
On December 15, 2022, a Boston grand jury indicted Freda Brasfield, 55, the Administrator and Finance Director for Mayor Michelle Wu (D), on one charge of money laundering and one charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Brasfield’s two codefendants, Jaime Liberty and Jayleen Rivera, were charged with conspiracy to smuggle drugs into Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Shirley. Four prisoners were also allegedly involved, including Brasfield's nephew, Keenan Brasfield, 31.
The drug-laced sheets of paper were confiscated at the prison on January 27, 2022. Brasfield’s role in the scheme allegedly centered around her use of a mobile banking app to shuffle money that paid for the contraband. She was reportedly careful to limit each transaction to $999, in order to avoid triggering mandatory bank reporting requirements for transactions of $1,000 or more.
Brasfield, a veteran state Democratic political activist and community organizer, pleaded not guilty when she appeared in Woburn Superior Court on February 10, 2023. The City subsequently placed her on unpaid administrative leave – nearly two months after she was indicted. That raised questions of what the mayor knew about the alleged crime and when she knew it. But former Suffolk County prosecutor Greg Henning offered that “[t]he simple fact that the indictments were handed down and they were allegedly public in terms of being available to someone who wanted to inquire,  doesn’t mean people knew about it and were discussing it.”
“The Mayor’s office does not have the obligation to sit on the [state] court’s website to check updated criminal case dockets,” Henning insisted.
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