A federal anti-narcotics agent leaked confidential information about one of Washington’s top criminal targets in Venezuela as part of a scheme to sell government secrets to defense attorneys. seeks to attract wealthy clients, a test confirmed this week.
In an intercepted phone call, DEA agent John Costanzo Jr. revealed the exact date in 2019 that Miami prosecutors plan to file charges against businessman Alex Saab for allegedly diverting $350 million from state contracts.
The leak, which has become public for the first time, is a new scandalous case of criminal misconduct by an agent of the United States’ top anti-narcotics agency and could further complicate the Department of Justice’s difficult case. against Saab.
Saab has become a cause célèbre among allies of President Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. The president maintained that the Colombian-born businessman was a diplomat in Venezuela who was attacked because of his attempts to avoid sanctions imposed by the government of Donald Trump. Saab was arrested during a refueling stop on a flight to Iran, where Maduro had sent him to negotiate oil deals.
But before his arrest, Saab himself was a DEA informant, meeting with agents outside of Venezuela, handing over illegal proceeds worth millions of dollars and agreeing to help them deepen their internal investigation. Maduro’s circle, according to prosecutors. .
“When we indict someone, there is a reason for secrecy,” Michael Nadler, a former federal prosecutor in Miami who indicted Saab, told the jury in Manhattan. “No information should be disclosed that would help anyone outside of the prosecutorial team get clients.”
Costanzo is accused of pocketing $73,000 for leaking confidential police information to his former DEA boss, Manny Recio, who is now being indicted.
Days after retiring as a DEA supervisor, Recio began working as an investigator for Miami defense attorneys Luis Guerra and David Macey.
Prosecutors described these defendants as “corrupt lawyers” who “paid a high price for DEA secrets,” but did not explain why they were not charged along with Costanzo and Recio.
Macey and Guerra did not respond to requests for comment. The Florida bar has not disclosed whether it has taken disciplinary action against them.