TRENTON, NJ (MERCER) — In a significant development, Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) have declared that a state grand jury has made the decision to file criminal charges against a correctional police officer employed by the Mercer County Department of Corrections. The charges stem from allegations that the officer, identified as Tyree L. Hobbs, accepted bribes over a period of several years in exchange for providing inmates with illegal drugs, tobacco products, and other forms of contraband.
Tyree L. Hobbs, a 39-year-old resident of Hamilton, New Jersey, was indicted last month on four criminal counts, including charges of official misconduct. It is crucial to note that these charges and allegations are considered to be mere accusations, and the defendant is to be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
The charges against Hobbs were brought forward on June 14, 2023, following an extensive investigation conducted by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA), which uncovered evidence suggesting that the officer had been accepting bribes from inmates between November 2017 and July 2022. As a result of these findings, Hobbs was subsequently suspended without pay.
Commenting on the matter, Attorney General Platkin emphasized, “As alleged, the defendant put personal profit ahead of his duty to protect inmates, his fellow officers, and the public. We will continue to hold accountable those who illegally violate the public’s trust.” The severity of the case was echoed by Thomas Eicher, the Executive Director of OPIA, who stated, “The bribe payments the defendant was allegedly receiving have come with a high price, causing him to be suspended by his employer and now indicted by a grand jury. Smuggling any contraband into a secure facility puts corrections officers and residents at risk and will not be tolerated.”
According to the complaint, Hobbs began engaging in criminal conduct approximately ten months after joining the Mercer County Department of Corrections in February 2017. The investigation further revealed that Hobbs would accept bribes ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars in exchange for smuggling packages containing illicit narcotics and tobacco into the Mercer County Correction Center (MCCC) located in Hopewell Township. Acting as a courier, Hobbs would receive sealed packages from inmate affiliates outside the facility, which he would then conceal in accessible locations within the facility for the intended inmates.
Throughout the investigation, it was discovered that Hobbs received bribes ranging from $300 to $2,500 for each delivery, either in cash or through mobile money-transfer apps. The defendant’s actions are believed to have violated state regulations and the policies of the Mercer County Department of Corrections, which strictly prohibit the possession, sale, or use of contraband within the MCCC. Furthermore, these regulations prohibit officers from establishing personal relationships with inmates, engaging in trade or barter with inmates, and accepting gifts from any inmate, relative, friend, or representative.
The indictment against Hobbs includes charges of official misconduct, pattern of official misconduct, bribery in official and political matters, and acceptance or receipt of an unlawful benefit by a public servant. If convicted, each second-degree charge carries a sentence of five to ten years in state prison, accompanied by a fine of up to $150,000.
The case is being handled by OPIA Deputy Attorney General Brian Uzdavinis, under the supervision of Corruption Bureau Chief Peter Lee, OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione, and OPIA Director Thomas Eicher.
Defense counsel for Tyree L. Hobbs is Stuart J. Alterman of Alterman & Associates, located in Marlton, New Jersey.