DEA Agent On Trial For Allegedly Taking $250K In Mafia Bribes

A former agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been accused of taking $250,000 in bribes from the mafia for “protection” from being caught by the feds. He is also accused of using his position to help cover for a strip club that was allegedly involved in trafficking, as well as helping a high school English teacher with his illegal marijuana side business.

Former DEA agent Joseph Bongiovanni is being tried in federal court in upstate New York for his alleged crimes. The 59-year-old faces numerous charges, including bribery, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice for taking massive bribes from the Buffalo Mafia to provide them with an “umbrella of protection.”

According to the Associated Press, “Bongiovanni was raised in a tight-knit Italian American community in North Buffalo and known as a ‘door kicker’ in the DEA, defense attorney Parker MacKay said, ‘not the type to sit in front of a computer.’”

During court proceedings on Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Tripi told the jury that Bongiovanni had become a double agent for the mafia after he went through a costly divorce, as the mob money made up for the losses and helped him continue to live a lavish lifestyle, as he was very fond of luxury trips. The attorney also claimed that Bongiovanni admired people associated with “Italian organized crime.”

According to court documents, Bongiovanni reportedly tipped off the mafia when they were “all clear” and had no law enforcement agencies keeping tabs on them. He also allegedly leaked intel to the mafia while opening fictitious cases to cover up his actions — making it appear as if he was investigating certain members of the Buffalo Mafia or claiming that they were informants. All the while, he was able to receive notices from other agencies any time they began investigating the mafia because he was supposedly doing the same.

Bongiovanni also reportedly encouraged other agents to spend less time investigating Italians, telling them to focus on Blacks and Hispanics instead.

The Associated Press also noted that Bongiovanni “is accused of vouching for criminals, filing bogus reports and swiping a sensitive DEA case file on organized crime that he stored in his basement after his abrupt retirement.”

Aside from directly aiding the Buffalo Mafia, Bongiovanni also reportedly helped protect the Pharoah’s Gentlemen’s Club, a strip club in Cheektowaga, New York, that engaged in human trafficking and illegal drug use. Peter Gerace Kr., the owner of the club, was a childhood friend of Bongiovanni and the grandson of the “reputed leader of the Buffalo Mafia,” Joseph Todaro.

A high school English teacher is also reportedly going to be called to testify against Bongiovanni, as he admitted to prosecutors that he ran a marijuana-growing operation while being provided with confidential information from the former DEA agent.

“He did just enough legitimate work to avoid detection. He almost got away with it,” Tripi stated.

The assistant U.S. attorney also told jurors, “Sometimes the DEA doesn’t get it right. He was able to manipulate everyone because, in law enforcement, there’s a certain amount of trust that’s inherent. He did it under the watch of supervisors who under-supervised him.”

Bongiovanni has denied any wrongdoing, with his attorneys arguing that the former DEA agent never received any bribes and claiming that the prosecution is based on questionable testimony from people who hold grudges against their client and other individuals seeking sweetheart deals for their testimony against Bongiovanni.