Retired drug enforcement agent Joseph Bongiovanni is facing federal bribery charges in Buffalo. U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy said the 21-year veteran of the Drug Enforcement Administration used his position to take pressure off friends and associates who had links to Italian organized crime and the drug trade.
“The troubling allegations in this indictment suggest that the defendant betrayed not only his oath of office, but the trust and confidence placed in him by his colleagues in law enforcement and the citizens in our community,” said Kennedy.
Bongiovanni started with the DEA in 1998, but prosecutors said it wasn’t until 2008 that he allegedly started taking bribes totaling over $250,000.
“Those bribes were paid on a recurring basis,” said Kennedy. “In exchange primarily for the defendant taking actions and providing information that was designed to protect and conceal the drug trafficking activities of his friends, associates, and co-conspirators.”
Federal prosecutors said while assigned to the DEA’s Buffalo office, he gave case information to conspirators, pressured other agents to end investigations, and convinced witnesses not to testify.
Bongiovanni retired from the DEA earlier this year. His attorney, Paul Cambria, said the charges are baseless and the prosecution’s use of the term “Italian organized crime,” is a shot at sensationalism.
“I’ve been hearing that for all the years that I’ve practiced,” said Cambria. “People can say that all they like, it’s thrown in because it catches a lot of attention and conjures up a lot of visions. But there’s no basis for it.”
Bongiovanni was released on bail Tuesday as he awaits trial on a total of 11 federal counts.