Veteran DEA Agents Convicted in Bribery Scheme, Face 20 Years in Prison

Agents John Constanzo Jr., left, and Manuel Recio

By Steve Neavling 

A former and current DEA agent were convicted by a jury this week on charges related to a bribery scheme. 

Agent John Constanzo Jr., who had been on leave, and former Agent Manuel Recio were found guilty of multiple charges following a 12-day trial, the Justice Department announced Thursday. 

The men were convicted of conspiracy to bribe a public official, conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, and honest services wire fraud.

Constanzo, who was a group supervisor in the agency’s Miami Field Office until 2019, was accused of leaking internal agency secrets to Recio in exchange for bribes. 

After Recio retired as the assistant special agent in charge of the Miami Field Office in November 2018, he launched a private investigative business to help criminal defense attorneys.

The men agreed to a scheme in which Recio funneled cash to Constanzo for information about nonpublic investigations, such as the identities of individuals charged and the expected timing of indictments and arrests, as well as intelligence obtained from the Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Information System (NADDIS). 

Recio used the information to recruit new clients for criminal defense attorneys. 

Prosecutors said Constanzo accepted about $73,000 in cash from Recio.

The defendants “trafficked sensitive, nonpublic, confidential law enforcement information in exchange for cash and other valuable financial benefits,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.  “In doing so, they endangered public safety by disclosing the timing of sealed indictments and arrests of DEA targets. Recio and Costanzo were convicted by a unanimous jury for their brazen violation of the public’s trust and for providing information that could have put their former colleagues and others in harm’s way.  This case underscores that corruption in the ranks of any law enforcement agency will be met with zero tolerance, and we stand with the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers who carry out their service with integrity and honor.”

Costanzo, 48, of Virginia, and Recio, 54, of Florida, face up to 20 years in prison. 

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