Essex County Corrections Officer and Girlfriend Arrested for Conspiring to Smuggle Contraband into Essex County Correctional Facility

A 34-year-old Essex County corrections officer, Efrin Wade, and his girlfriend, Yairisa Lizardo, 29, were arrested on charges of conspiring to smuggle contraband into the Essex County Correctional Facility, where Wade was employed. The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger.

The defendants were charged by complaint with extortion under color of official right. The charges were filed on the grounds that Wade agreed to smuggle tobacco and cell phones, which are both forbidden in the correctional facility, for sale to inmates. Wade believed he was communicating with an individual seeking to smuggle contraband to inmates but in reality, it was an undercover FBI agent.

Lizardo accepted $10,000 in cash and a substantial quantity of tobacco from the undercover agent to be smuggled into the prison. Over the subsequent weeks, Wade left this tobacco in concealed locations within the facility, believing it would be retrieved by inmates. However, law enforcement recovered these items after Wade relayed the concealed locations to the undercover agent.

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 the facility, law enforcement recovered it in a concealed location where Wade had left it for inmates to retrieve.

Wade was found to be in possession of multiple packs of contraband cigarettes as well as tobacco packs and cigars during his shift at ECCF during the early morning hours of March 14, 2023.

If found guilty, the extortion charge is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine.

Sellinger credited special agents with the FBI and investigators of the Internal Affairs Unit of the Essex County Department of Corrections with the investigation leading to today’s arrests.

The defendants appeared today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer in Newark federal court and were released on $100,000 each unsecured bond.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.