Saturday, November 26, 2022

Veteran Miami DEA agents charged with conspiracy to bribe

A current US Drug Enforcement Administration agent and a former supervisor at the agency were charged Friday with leaking confidential law enforcement information to defense attorneys in Florida in exchange for cash and gifts.

A five-count bribery-conspiracy indictment was uncovered in New York that accuses the agent, John Costanzo Jr., of accepting bribes to provide sensitive information about pending investigations to former Miami supervisor Manny Racio, who Retired from DEA more than two years ago. As a private investigator for local defense attorneys. Federal prosecutors allege that Racio sought information to help recruit new clients.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement, “The conduct alleged in the indictment violates the core duty of law enforcement officers to protect and protect the public, rather than using access to sensitive information to enrich themselves.” serves.”

Counsel for the DEA and Recio did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Costanzo’s attorney, Mark L. Mukasi said in an email that “the principle of this case is misguided and will be upheld.”

In interviews with FBI agents in 2019, both Costanzo and Recio denied any exchange of value as part of the alleged scheme. Such actions would have been a gross violation of the DEA’s standards of conduct.

The allegations are the latest black eye for the DEA, which has been beset by repeated misconduct scandals that put a growing list of former agents behind bars. Just last week, another former DEA agent in Arkansas was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for receiving a bribe of thousands of dollars from a drug trafficker.

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The latest allegations have sent chills through South Florida’s fiercely competitive narco-defense circles, due to Racio’s strong ties to federal law enforcement and private-sector attorneys.

The allegations stemmed from a long-running federal investigation by the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which took the unusual step of wiretapping more than two years ago Resio as part of an investigation into the flow of information between the DEA and Miami attorneys representing Colombian drug traffickers and money-launderers.

The FBI wiretapped Racio for at least three months while he worked as a private investigator for defense attorneys in his post-retirement job.

As part of the dubious transaction, he once wrote a $2,500 check to a company co-owned by an unnamed member of Costanzo’s family, according to court documents. According to an email exchange between a DEA agent and an unnamed defense attorney Racio about the vehicle, acting as a private investigator, it appears the payment was used by Costanzo to repair Porsche.

In 2019, a member of the same family received $50,000 from a company owned by a local Florida police detective. According to the indictment, the money was used by Costanzo to make a down payment on a condominium.

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Racio’s defense attorney Phil Reizenstein previously told the Associated Press that Raccio’s work on the cases was “impeccable.”

“I’m not worried that he did anything that was close to being illegal,” he said at the time. “He dedicated his career to the DEA. He has held himself to the highest standards and uniform law-abiding ideals in his personal work.”

Recio ended his more than two decades with the DEA as assistant special agent in charge of the DEA’s Miami Field Division, specializing in cases involving illegal finance. Shortly after retiring, he started a Miami-based business called Global Legal Consulting, which provides private investigations, money laundering solutions and other legal services, according to its website.

Recio once oversaw a highly sensitive money laundering investigation that involved Jose Irrizarri, a former standout DEA agent in a Miami office who was sentenced in December to more than 12 years in federal prison. For plotting money laundering with the Colombian Cartel and using the badges to create a lavish lifestyle of parties on expensive cars, yachts and Tiffany jewelry. Prior to the closure, Irizarri blamed the DEA for promoting corruption and a culture of gift-taking, which he said dismayed him for the implications of violating the law.


Goodman reported from Cleveland, Mustian reported from New Orleans.


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