Trial begins for DEA agent Joseph Bongiovanni accused of taking mafia bribes

A former U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agent has been indicted on charges that he financed a strip club allegedly involved in sex trafficking, helped a high school English teacher run a side job with marijuana, and accepted $250,000 in bribes from the Mafia. ing.

The federal trial of Joseph Bongiovanni, a former DEA agent accused of providing an “umbrella of protection” to the Buffalo Mafia in exchange for huge bribes, has begun in upstate New York.

of Associated Press “Bongiovanni grew up in a close-knit Italian-American community in North Buffalo and was known as the DEA’s ‘door kicker,'” defense attorney Parker McKay said. “He’s not the type to sit in front of a computer.” It was reported that.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Tripi Said Jurors on Thursday argued that Mr. Bongiovanni asked the Mafia to help him because he was facing financial problems stemming from a costly divorce and a penchant for extravagant travel.

Mr Tripi claimed Mr Bongiovanni had respect for those involved in “organized crime in Italy”.

Bongiovanni, 59, is accused of being a “double agent” who betrayed his badge and accepted $250,000 in bribes from the Mafia to help federal authorities bust an organized crime syndicate.

A former Drug Enforcement Administration official is said to have tipped off the Mafia about when they were given the “all clear” and law enforcement was not keen on following them. Bongiovanni is said to have leaked information to the Mafia and created fictitious cases in order to appear to be investigating specific Mafia members or to claim they were informants. Bongiovanni pretended to be investigating the Buffalo Mafia, and was notified when another agency began investigating the criminal organization.

Bongiovanni allegedly encouraged his law enforcement colleagues to spend less time investigating Italians and focus more on blacks and Hispanics, saying, “Fuck, fuck.” .

According to the Associated Press, “Bongiovanni also vouched for criminals, filed false reports, and stole confidential DEA case files on organized crime that he kept in the basement of his home after his sudden retirement.” He has also been accused of.”

Prosecutors say Bongiovanni went to great lengths to protect Pharaoh’s Gentlemen’s Club, a Cheektowaga strip club where illegal drug use and sex trafficking were allegedly taking place.

The strip club’s owner, Peter Jerace Jr., is a childhood friend of Bongiovanni and the grandson of Joseph Todaro, the “famous leader of the Buffalo Mafia.”

Tripi accused Jealous of supplying “cocaine and women to high-class clients.”

Prosecutors said Geras enlisted Bongiovanni’s help in covering up the stripper’s overdose.

Jerace reportedly asked a former DEA agent about tracking drug traffickers’ cell phones: “Is there a way to ping a cell phone like the police do? I wonder if I can do that? I just want to know,” the former DEA agent said in a voicemail.

Mark Foti, Jealous’ attorney, said his client “denies all charges and looks forward to confronting the government’s evidence at trial.”

Prosecutors plan to call to the stand a public high school English teacher who admitted to running a marijuana cultivation business while receiving confidential information from Bongiovanni.

“He just did a legitimate enough job to avoid detection. He almost got away with it,” Tripi said of Bongiovanni.

“Sometimes the DEA doesn’t get things right, and the reason he was able to manipulate everyone is because there’s a level of trust inherent in law enforcement,” Tripi told jurors. “He did it under the watchful eye of a supervisor who lacked oversight.” ”

Mr. Bongiovanni denies charges of bribery, conspiracy and obstruction of justice, which could result in life in federal prison.

Mr. Bongiovanni’s lawyers insist he never accepted bribes, and the government’s case against him is threatening those with grudges against him and the Justice Department seeking sweet deals to testify against him. It claims to be based on dubious testimony from those seeking it.

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