A Niagara Falls patrol officer has resigned, as she faced being fired for her suspected involvement in a Cataract City drug ring.
Three-year police veteran Stephanie Costanzo now faces federal charges of drug conspiracy, along with her boyfriend Raymond Hopson and friend Lindsay Carrier. They appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Roemer on Tuesday in connection with possession with intent to distribute cocaine, as well as maintaining a premise for manufacturing, distributing and using cocaine and marijuana.
Costanzo was released, while Hopson and Carrier remain in custody. All are facing a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum of 40 years.
The charges came as the result of an investigation by the Niagara Falls Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Buffalo Police Department. Niagara Falls began the probe, then went to the DEA for help. A Buffalo Police officer went undercover in Niagara Falls to help.
Niagara Falls Police Superintendent Bryan Dalporto said her relationship crossed the line.
"It's not something that we stand for in law enforcement and it's not something that we will tolerate," he said. "The officer was processed for termination. She was immediately placed on leave without pay. She was processed for termination and in the process of termination she did resign from the Niagara Falls Police Department."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Violanti, who is handling the case, said Hopson sold cocaine to an undercover police officer on multiple occasions between July 27 and November 9. Then on November 9, a search warrant was executed at the Grand Avenue home of Hopson and Costanzo, as well as the Willow Avenue home of Carrier's mother.
Violanti said, at both homes, police found marijuana, cocaine, a scale, an open container of creatine used as a cutting agent for cocaine, plastic bags and cash.
“There is no excuse for a law enforcement officer to tarnish their badge in exchange for profit," said DEA Special Agent-in-Charge James Hunt. "While the good men and women in law enforcement conducted this investigation with integrity and diligence, they dismantled a major cocaine trafficking organization in Niagara County and arrested a dirty cop. By being a watchdog in our communities, we will continue to weed out drug trafficking organizations and those involved, at all levels.”
Acting U.S. Attorney James Kennedy said the case will go to a grand jury. Dalporto said there is no indication Costanzo leaked any police information, although, as an afternoon patrol officer, she would not be privy to much.