Federal Trial Begins For Mafia-Connected DEA Agent

Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent Joseph Bongiovanni is starting his federal trial for numerous crimes. He was connected with the Italian Mafia in Buffalo, New York and the list of charges against him reads like a law school survey class.

Bribes, human trafficking, marijuana dealing and strip clubs sound like the agenda of organized crime. It was ostensibly another day at the office for Bongiovanni.

Two factors were key in Bongiovanni’s shady side hustle: personal connections and mounting debt.

He grew up in an Italian community in North Buffalo and is described as having an admiration for organized crime. He grew up with Peter Gerace Jr, who owns the Pharoah’s Gentlemen’s Club — an adult entertainment establishment accused of having been a haven for drug use and human trafficking. Additionally, Gerace is the grandson of Buffalo Mafia Boss Joseph Todaro.

Bongiovanni began to leverage those connections when his federal law enforcement salary wasn’t quite enough to cover an expensive divorce and numerous posh vacations.

He took an alleged $250,000 in bribes to shield the Buffalo family from prosecution.

Pretending to investigate them, he would open bogus cases that would cause him to be alerted should any other agency start their own inquiries. He would then protect any ”persons of interest” by claiming they were being used as informants.

At the Pharoah’s Gentlemen’s Club, Bongiovanni is accused of assisting Gerace in covering up a stripper’s overdose.

A high school English teacher who admitted to running a side marijuana business is expected to testify that Bongiovanni aided him.

The formal charges against Bongiovanni include bribery, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice. If convicted on all counts, he will likely spend the rest of his life in federal prison.

U.S. Attorney Joseph Tripi told jurors that “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.”

Attorneys for Bongiovanni deny all charges and claim the case is based on lies “so fanciful they don’t just strain credibility, they rip it apart.”

The Bongiovanni case has not been the only embarrassment to the DEA in recent years.

The agency has become a veritable mafia in its own right, with 16 agents prosecuted since 2015. The crimes involved have included drug trafficking, selling guns to cartels and giving information to defense attorneys. Inadequate supervision and poor hiring practices have been blamed for the corruption.

In Bongiovanni’s case, his lifelong connection to the Buffalo mafia was not flagged by background checks.