Police break prison crime 'syndicate'

Crime behind prison walls may have reached a new level of sophistication.

That is one conclusion being drawn from an early-morning shakedown raid at Framingham State Prison, 25 miles west of Boston, Jan. 6. The focus of the raid was a gambling, drug, and weapons ring that allegedly had ties to organized crime and used prison computers to help coordinate its work.

While other officers literally encircled the medium-security prison with their cruisers about 1 a.m., an estimated 200 state policemen moved in to confiscate gaming equipment and a large quantity of heroin. By midday the police were reported still inside continuing the shakedown.

''We believe this is the largest coordinated law enforcement organization in the history of the commonwealth,'' said Assistant Middlesex County District Attorney Peter W. Agnes Jr. ''It is the accumulation of years of investigation by numerous law enforcement agencies.''

Officials alleged the some of the inmates at Framingham have ties to organized crime, locally and in New York, involving the distribution of narcotics. In connection with the the raid, several arrests also were made in in Greater Boston towns.

A recent, award-winning documentary on the Framingham facility by a Boston radio station found that many of the inmates (most are women) were free to use the prison computers at any hour of the day.

Investigators were probing the possibility that one of those involved in the ring was Susan Saxe, a one-time antiwar radical who admitted participation in a 1970 Boston bank robbery, during which one policeman was killed. She also was on the FBI's ''10 most wanted list'' until her arrest in Philadelphia in 1975. Law enforcement officials declined to comment on the alleged involvement of Miss Saxe because they ''do not want to prejudice'' the case.

At a news conference in his office, Assistant District Attorney Agnes, along with law enforcement officials from other Massachusetts jurisdictions and New York City, displayed two handguns, quantities of white powder said to be heroin, scales, betting slips, and several thousand dollars in cash from raids on the prison as well as eight private residences in the Greater Boston area.

In a statement to reporters, Agnes said Operation Uppercrust, the codename for the raid, began in April 1981 and covered Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and New York. He said the raid had been carried out in ''flawless fashion'' and added ''I believe we have demonstrated convincingly that local law enforcement agencies in several states can work together harmoniously.''

He said complete disclosure of evidence was not possible at this time because other phases of Operation Uppercrust are still in progress.

Agnes said the nine-month long operation was decided upon instead of transferring inmates from Framingham because officials were more interested in lasting effects than in quick results.

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