Former Buffalo DEA agent accused of taking bribes to protect mafia members

Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A former DEA special agent has been accused of protecting or shielding people associated with Italian Organized Crime (IOC) in the Western District of New York.

Joseph Bongiovanni has been indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud, accepting bribes, making false statements and five counts of obstruction of justice.

Bongiovanni, a Tonawanda resident, began his career in law enforcement as an Erie County Sheriff’s deputy in 1995, later joining the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a special agent in or around 1998.

He was assigned to the DEA’s Buffalo office from roughly 2001 until his retirement earlier this year.

Prosecutors say that Bongiovanni had friends and associates who he knew were involved in the use, distribution and importation of controlled substances, including marijuana and cocaine.

Between 2008 and 2019, Bongiovanni allegedly did not investigate his friends and associates and used his position as a special agent to shield them from criminal investigations.

In addition to this, Bongiovanni was accused of trying to dissuade other members of law enforcement from investigating them. This was done in exchange for payments, prosecutors say.

With his position, prosecutors say Bongiovanni provided information about federal investigations to his friends and associates in order to aid their drug trafficking activities.

Between roughly 2008 and 2017, he was paid at least $250,000 in bribes, prosecutors say.

His attorney entered a ‘not guilty’ plea.

Bongiovanni was released on several restrictions, including home confinement, GPS monitoring and a $250,000 signature bond.

He cannot travel outside Erie or Niagara counties.

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