The charges against a former federal agent charged with $ 250,000 in bribes to protect the Mafia are based on “racist animus” against Italian Americans, his lawyer said.
Federal prosecutors failed to identify “a single cent” that Joseph Bongiovanni took from gangsters in Buffalo, New York during his two decades with the US Drug Enforcement Administration, his defense attorney claims in new court records. “The government has determined that all participants have Italian surnames and as such envisioned the existence of an Italian-American organized crime syndicate,” lawyer James Harrington wrote on the file.
He said the prosecutor-led criminal organization, the Buffalo Crime Family, “doesn’t seem to exist, but the lore of the Italian mafia is so widespread in our society that the government can benefit from just claiming a connection. without having to prove it. ”
The US Attorney’s Office in Buffalo declined to comment.
Bongiovanni, who grew up in a close-knit Italian-American community in North Buffalo, is accused of providing information to drug traffickers and using his badge to “dissuade other law enforcement officers” from bringing cases against friends involved in “Italian organized crime” are involved in an indictment filed in 2019.
Conspiracy, obstruction of justice and false testimony charges should be dismissed, Bongiovanni’s lawyers say. Claims that a government-transmitted “avalanche of financial information” did not incriminate the former agent.
The indictment alleges that Bongiovanni accepted the bribes between 2008 and 2017. He left the DEA two years ago.
Harrington attempted to cast doubt on the case in a 114-page trial earlier that month.
“Mr. Bongiovanni’s lifestyle does not mirror that of a man who allegedly took a quarter of a million dollars in bribes,” wrote Harrington. “A vintage car in his garage that he bought on loan a few years ago that is slowly taking parts at once restored is his only unique possession. “
Prosecutors wrongly concluded that Bongiovanni was providing cover to drug dealers out of disbelief that so many large marijuana dealers “have been released by the DEA for so long,” the defense claims.
“Overall, the government’s sensational case seems to be a retrograde narrative, starting with inference and working backwards,” wrote Harrington, “despite the lack of clear evidence.”
Bongiovanni’s trial has been delayed in part by the coronavirus pandemic and a trial date has not been set. He stays free and, according to his lawyer, has taken care of his parents.