Federal drug agent accepted bribes to give agency secrets to defense attorneys: prosecutors
A logo reading DEA Special Agent is pictured in the Office of the US Drug Enforcement Administration on May 29, 2019 in New York City. - JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/TNS

On Friday, The Daily Beast reported that a Drug Enforcement Administration agent is being charged with accepting "tens of thousands of dollars" in bribes to release agency secrets to the defense attorneys of suspects.

"John Costanzo, Jr., 47, traded 'nonpublic DEA information, including information about forthcoming, sealed indictments and nonpublic investigations, such as the identities of individuals charged and the anticipated timing of arrests; and intelligence which Costanzo obtained from a confidential DEA database,' according to an indictment unsealed in Manhattan federal court," reported Justin Rohrlich. "Costanzo, who allegedly used a so-called burner phone to throw investigators off the scent, spent the money on repairs to his Porsche, airline tickets, and a $50,000 down payment on a condominium, the filing alleges."

"The feds say Costanzo shared the sensitive data on an 'as-needed basis' to former DEA Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Manuel Recio, 53, who worked out of the Miami Field Office until his retirement in 2018," said the report. "He then began working as a private investigator for defense lawyers in Miami, using privileged info to help them recruit new clients and get a leg up on the government in court, the indictment states. On top of providing restricted data, the filing alleges that Costanzo — while on the DEA payroll — in fact 'assisted Recio in his work as a private investigator on behalf of charged defendants.'"

According to the report, if Costanzo and Recio are convicted, they each face up to 60 years in prison.

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"In all, the feds say Recio paid Costanzo more than $70,000 to leak DEA secrets to him," the report continued. "The funds were routed through a network of bank accounts controlled by coworkers, family members, and associates, according to prosecutors. In one example, feds say the unnamed task force officer working with the DEA incorporated a company that Recio used to transfer more than $20,000 to Costanzo. The transactions were memorialized in texts between Costanzo and the task force officer, with Costanzo asking for 'the exact name of the company,' and the task force officer replying with a photo of his checkbook."

The DEA has been hit hard by scandals and misconduct allegations in recent years. In one incident last November, an intoxicated DEA agent was arrested after he pulled his government issued-firearm on a fellow patron in a bar in Bozeman, Montana. Another DEA agent attended the January 6 Capitol insurrection, believing he could use it as a platform to launch a podcast and a line of cigars, then lied to the FBI about flashing his government credentials at the scene.