Ex-DEA agent accused of taking bribes to hide drug dealers
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A former agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration is accused of taking at least $250,000 in bribes to protect drug traffickers, according to a federal indictment released Tuesday.
Authorities announced that longtime agent Joseph Bongiovanni was arraigned on an 11-count indictment that charges him with obstruction of justice, making false statements and other offenses.
The indictment alleges that Bongiovanni took the money in exchange for providing information on federal investigations, law enforcement techniques and the identities of people cooperating with authorities.
Bongiovanni, according to the indictment, had friends and associates who dealt marijuana and cocaine, including people he thought had ties to Italian organized crime.
“By using his badge as a shield to protect both himself and others engaged in criminal activity, the defendant disregarded the rule of law and undermined our system of justice,” said James Kennedy Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York.
When asked if other law enforcement officers could be charged, Kennedy said they will continue the investigation.
The DEA’s special agent in charge of the New York division says the agency fully cooperates with such investigations.
A message for comment was left for Bongiovanni’s attorney, but was not returned.
Bongiovanni started with the federal agency in the late 90s and had been assigned to the DEA’s resident office in Buffalo since 2001, until his retirement earlier this year.
The indictment accuses Bongiovanni of trying to dissuade law enforcement officials from investigating his friends and associates.
One of the federal charges is tied to Bongiovanni’s contact with a person who operates a gentleman’s club in Cheektowaga, a town 10 miles (16.09 kilometers) away from Buffalo. The unnamed person, identified as “coconspirator 1,” gave Bongiovanni a call after a stripper overdosed on drugs at the club, but the federal agent denied the call took place, according to the indictment.
Kevin Kelly with Homeland Security Investigations said the evidence will indicate that Bongiovanni was part of a broader “criminal conspiracy.”
Bongiovanni, he said, charted “his own course of deception and betrayal.”
Ryan Tarinelli is a corps member for Report for America, a nonprofit organization that supports local news coverage in a partnership with The Associated Press for New York. The AP is solely responsible for all content.