BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A federal judge has ruled that criminal charges against a former DEA agent won’t be dismissed. This comes after that former agent, Joseph Bongiovanni, asked that the case against him be tossed out claiming he’s being singled out because of his perceived connections to the Italian mob.
Law enforcement and legal experts tell News 4 that the existence of the Italian mob locally, hasn’t been seen in decades. But, references of Italian organized crime have come up frequently in this case.
Bongiovanni retired in 2019. He’s accused of shielding friends and associates from federal investigations for years and in return taking bribes.
The defense for Bongiovanni has argued in court that charges against him be tossed out claiming the U.S. Attorney’s Office is selectively prosecuting him because of his Italian-American heritage and suspected ties to the Italian mob. During a raid of Bongiovanni’s home in 2019, a federal agent demanded that Bongiovanni “tell him all about the mafia.”
In new documents from federal court, Judge Michael Roemer says Bongiovanni has provided no evidence to back this up. Therefore, the case is moving forward.
Roemer writes in his recommendation and order that, “A prosecution can be selective if predicated on a defendant’s race. […] a prosecution is selective if it is undertaken with “intentional and purposeful discrimination.”
As for any evidence of the Italian mob existing locally, we heard from a local defense attorney on that.
“We’re not aware of any investigations, any prosecutions, any allegations of mafia related activity 10-15 years ago and that has not changed to this day, so if there’s any change in allegation that there’s currently mafia related activity I’ve seen no evidence of it,” said legal defense attorney Barry Covert.
Prosecutors say that Bongiovanni believed he had connections to Italian Organized Crime. Bongiovanni is accused of sharing confidential information on the status of federal investigations with Peter Gerace, the owner of Pharaoh’s Gentlemen’s Club in Cheektowaga. Gerace also faces charges. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors say Bongiovanni and Gerace were involved in drug distribution and that Bongiovanni accepted tens of thousands of dollars in brides from Gerace
Bongiovanni’s defense attorney, James Harrington says he disagrees with the judge’s ruling and will file objections in court.