Federal Trial Unveils Ex-DEA Agent’s Alleged Ties to Mafia and Strip Club Scandal

A former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent is facing accusations of accepting $250,000 in bribes from the mafia, shielding a strip club allegedly involved in sex trafficking, and aiding a high school English teacher in his marijuana side business. Joseph Bongiovanni, the defendant in the federal trial underway in upstate New York, stands accused of providing the Buffalo Mafia with what prosecutors describe as an “umbrella of protection” in exchange for substantial bribes.

According to The Associated Press, defense attorney Parker MacKay described Bongiovanni as a “door kicker” within the DEA, emphasizing his active fieldwork rather than desk duties. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Tripi informed jurors that Bongiovanni, raised in a close-knit Italian American community, allegedly turned to aiding the mafia due to financial strains resulting from a costly divorce and his penchant for luxury travel.

Tripi asserted that Bongiovanni had an affinity for individuals associated with “Italian organized crime.” The former DEA agent is accused of betraying his badge to facilitate the mafia’s activities, including tipping them off when law enforcement was not actively pursuing them.

Allegations suggest that Bongiovanni diverted investigative efforts away from Italians and toward minorities. Prosecutors claim he vouched for criminals, filed false reports, and unlawfully retained a sensitive DEA case file post-retirement.

Prosecutors further contend that Bongiovanni went out of his way to shield Pharoah’s Gentlemen’s Club, co-owned by childhood friend Peter Gerace Jr., from law enforcement scrutiny. Gerace, the grandson of reputed Buffalo Mafia leader Joseph Todaro, allegedly facilitated drug use and sex trafficking at the club.

Tripi accused Gerace of providing drugs and women to upscale clients and seeking Bongiovanni’s assistance in covering up a stripper’s overdose. Gerace’s attorney, Mark Foti, maintains his client’s innocence, denying all charges against him.

In a twist, prosecutors plan to call a public high school English teacher to testify, revealing his involvement in a marijuana-growing operation while allegedly receiving confidential information from Bongiovanni.

Tripi emphasized Bongiovanni’s manipulation of law enforcement trust to evade detection, stating, “Sometimes the DEA doesn’t get it right.”

Bongiovanni denies charges of bribery, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice that could result in a lengthy prison term. His defense team argues that the case relies on questionable testimony from individuals seeking leniency or holding grudges.