Correction Commissioner Dora Schriro has a major problem: a massive breach of jail security. The Voice has learned that a convicted sex offender with a long rap sheet was recently able to repeatedly drive onto Rikers Island and roam jails and other highly secure areas over a period of more than week, right under the noses of dozens of clueless correction supervisors and officers.
Matthew Matagrano (pictured at right), was not an inmate during the period. The 36-year-old former resident of Yonkers and South Ozone Park is listed as a high-risk sex offender in the state’s registry. Matagrano has a record of convictions for sodomy, first-degree sex abuse, burglary, and, not surprisingly, criminal impersonation. He has been arrested more than a dozen times, and has served several stints on Rikers.
At his size, 5-foot-8 and 340 pounds, Matagrano shouldn’t have been so hard to miss. But he somehow was able to make or obtain a shield and a department identification card, and not only roam at least five facilities but obtain a sensitive Gate One all-access pass that allowed him to bring his car onto the island. He also is believed to have stolen at least two special correction department radios. Correction sources say the sheer number of security breakdowns alone that allowed this to happen is dizzying.
“He was able to go to the main security trailer on several different days, show his ID, and drive his car across the bridge,” a correction source says. “He could have brought an arsenal onto the island. Anything could have been in the trunk of his car.”
“This has to be one of the biggest clusterfucks in the history of correction,” another correction source says. “They are going to have to transfer or suspend 100 people. What is the commissioner going to say? What can she say?”
Not only did he pass the secure outer ring to make it onto the island on multiple occasions, but he also got past numerous gates and secure doors in the Robert N. Davoren Center, the Eric M. Taylor Center, the Anna M. Kross Center, as well as the Manhattan House of Detention. Each of those jails have security staff who are obviously supposed to challenge and check out the credentials of everyone both coming in and leaving. They all apparently dropped the ball.
Matagrano posed as some kind of investigator, and he allegedly interviewed inmates. Sources say he even tried to get them transferred to different jails. When he visited RNDC, Matagrano was savvy enough to ask for a specific supervisor in the jail, as a way to appear legitimate, and then stole a radio, and may have been given access to a secure computer containing sensitive information about inmates. In AMKC, he was seen talking to correction staff and doctors in the medical clinic. He stole a radio in the Manhattan jail.
“He was able to wander the jails for hours,” a source says. “He had complete access, walking around. This really brings to the forefront that we really should have listings of who works for who.”
Correction officers union president Norman Seabrook laid the blame for the security breakdown at Schriro’s feet. “This is another example of the incompetence we are dealing with from Dora Schriro,” he tells the Voice. “If nothing else does, this sends a signal to the mayor of New York that there’s a major problem here.”
“This is scary, we don’t know what he left behind in those jails, we don’t know what he brought in,” Seabrook added. “A lot of it has to do with post cuts and shift reduction, and a commissioner of the agency who is not concerned with security. Someone is going to get seriously hurt.”
Among his prior criminal convictions, Matagrano pleaded guilty in 2004 to posing as a city Board of Education quality-assurance inspector. He slipped into two Jackson Heights schools, and leafed through confidential student files, according to the Queens District Attorney’s office. In 1996, he was convicted of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl, leading to a lifetime listing in the state’s sex-offender registry.
Even as a frenzied search was continuing, Matagrano brazenly tried to enter the correction department’s Bronx court holding facility. It was there when sharp-eyed correction officers finally challenged him and captured him. The search had begun after he had been observed on a security camera; the license plate of his car was recorded, which gave authorities his identity and information to track him down.
When he was arrested, Matagrano had in his possession a DOC one-year legal-assistant visit pass, a card which identified him as the executive director of a jail advocates group, and a DOC parking pass that says “official business,” set to expire in September 2014.
Correction officials and police are investigating. Meanwhile, the budding scandal has, not surprisingly, sparked a ratcheting up of security on the island. Mayor Bloomberg surely won’t be pleased to hear about it, but whether it will affect Schriro’s tenure remains to be seen.
A DOC spokesman confirmed that Matagrano had been arrested but declined further comment. “We discovered on Thursday that he was impersonating a DOC employee; we identified him and were able to collar him in 24 hours,” said Robin Campbell, the spokesman.