A former Drug Enforcement Administration official made $250,000 by accepting bribes from the Mafia and offering protection to his criminal allies in Buffalo, New York, according to prosecutors.
Joseph Bongiovanni, 59, allegedly used the guise of a veteran DEA agent to derail investigations of his childhood friends, cover up a sex trafficking strip club and even help a connected high school English teacher maintain his side business of growing marijuana.
Prosecutors in his ongoing federal prosecution say Bongiovanni was a greedy racist who baffled his colleagues by opening false case files and encouraging them to spend less time investigating Italians and more time investigating blacks and Hispanics.
His protection ranged from providing an “all clear” to assure dealer friends that they were not on authorities’ radar to leaking intelligence and opening fictitious cases that made it appear that he was investigating them or trusting them as informants, the police said. prosecutors, a kind of trap. kill-and-kill tactic that prevented other law enforcement agencies from pursuing their own cases.
This also positioned Bongiovanni to receive notice whenever another agency became interested in one of the targets, a process known as deconfliction.
Former DEA agent Joseph Bongiovanni, 59, made $250,000 by accepting bribes from the Mafia and offering protection to his criminal allies in Buffalo, New York, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors say Bongiovanni was a greedy racist who encouraged his colleagues to spend less time investigating Italians and more time investigating blacks and Hispanics. Some of the evidence presented in court shown above
Among the businesses Bongiovanni is accused of protecting is Pharoah’s Gentlemen’s Club, a strip club outside Buffalo described by prosecutors as a haven for drug use and sex trafficking.
Bongiovanni is also accused of vouching for criminals, filing false reports and stealing a sensitive DEA file on organized crime that he stored in his basement after his abrupt retirement.
Among the frauds Bongiovanni is accused of protecting is Pharoah’s Gentlemen’s Club, a strip club outside Buffalo described by prosecutors as a haven for drug use and sex trafficking. Bongiovanni was a childhood friend of the owner, Peter Gerace Jr., who authorities say has close ties to both the Buffalo Mafia and the notoriously violent Outlaws Motorcycle Club.
Prosecutors said Gerace had the officer on speed dial for advice when he needed to cover up a stripper’s overdose. The evidence includes a voicemail in which Gerace asks Bongiovanni about tracking a drug dealer’s cell phone.
‘Is there a way to ping like the police do?’ she said, according to court records. “I just want to know if you could do that or not.”
Gerace’s attorney, Mark Foti, said his client “denies all charges and looks forward to confronting the government’s evidence at his trial.”
The long list of witnesses in the case includes dozens of federal law enforcement agents and a public school teacher of 30 years who admitted running a marijuana growing operation while receiving confidential information from Bongiovanni.
Prosecutor Tripi said Bongiovanni had two sets of rules, one for cronies who lined his pockets and another for everyone else.
Prosecutors said club owner Gerace had the agent on speed dial for advice when he needed to cover up a stripper’s overdose.
Prosecutor Tripi said Bongiovanni had two sets of rules, one for cronies who lined his pockets and another for everyone else. Evidence presented by prosecutors seen above
Background checks did not reveal Bongiovanni’s prior drug use or his ties to Italian organized crime in his native Buffalo.
Background checks did not reveal Bongiovanni’s prior drug use or ties to Italian organized crime in his native Buffalo, prosecutors said, and not a single member of law enforcement tracked him down until another agency arrested a dealer. who paid for Bongiovanni’s protection.
“He has this dark little secret,” Tripi said.
When authorities finally unmasked him in 2019, he hastily retreated and cleaned his cell phone.
The trial, expected to last two months, is part of a broader sex trafficking trial that has taken sensational turns, including an implicated judge who committed suicide after the FBI raided his home, law enforcement officers dragging a pond searching for an overdose victim and dead rats planted outside the home of a government witness who prosecutors say was later killed by a fatal dose of fentanyl.
“Sometimes the DEA doesn’t get it right,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Tripi told jurors. “He was able to manipulate everyone because, in law enforcement, there is a certain inherent trust.” He did it under the watch of supervisors who did not supervise him enough.
Bongiovanni has denied charges of bribery, conspiracy and obstruction of justice that could put him behind bars for life, charges that his lawyer says are based on lies “so fanciful that they not only test credibility but destroy.”
The trial is the latest blow to the 4,100-agent DEA, which has seen at least 16 agents indicted on federal charges since 2015, a parade of misconduct that has revealed gaping holes in the agency’s oversight.
The crimes include child pornography, drug trafficking, leaking intelligence to defense attorneys and selling firearms to cartel associates, according to an Associated Press analysis.
One carried a “Liberty or Death” flag and displayed his badge outside the Capitol on January 6. Another infiltrated the DEA in Chicago and helped traffickers smuggle thousands of kilos of cocaine from Puerto Rico to New York.
At least three veteran agents are serving prison sentences of a decade or more, including one who laundered money for cartels in Colombia and spent lavishly on expensive sports cars and Tiffany jewelry, and one Arkansas-based agent was caught on tape accepting a bribe inside from a Las Vegas casino. .
The cases, which come amid an epidemic of more than 100,000 fatal drug overdoses a year, often present years-long headaches for the Justice Department to determine whether any investigation was tainted when dishonest agents betrayed the badge .
The DEA declined to comment. DEA Administrator Anne Milgram is herself the subject of an ongoing Inspector General investigation examining whether the agency improperly hired some of her former associates.
Like other DEA scandals, the Bongiovanni case highlights recurring questions about the agency’s hiring standards and its ability to root out corruption.