It sounds like a plot we’ve heard before: An unassuming high school teacher built a massive drug empire while eluding the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Except this isn’t the plot to “Breaking Bad.” It’s a real-life crime story out of Buffalo, New York.
Michael Masecchia was an English teacher at Grover Cleveland High School, a father of two, and a football, softball, and soccer coach. He worked in the public school system for more than 30 years. In August 2019, he was arrested – to the surprise of the community.
The Daily Beast reported that Masecchia was arrested “on federal drug charges—after authorities raided his two-story Williamsville home to find a large cache of guns, several homemade explosives, and drugs.” Masecchia, the Beast reported, “was accused of growing and selling marijuana for more than 20 years.”
U.S. Attorney James Kennedy, Jr. announced the charges during an August 29, 2019 press conference, saying, “When one is involved in drug trafficking and has a cache of weapons at their ready access including explosive devices—certainly if I’m a parent, I don’t want my kid to be taught by that person.” He then added that the charges against Masecchia were “part of a much larger and ongoing organized crime and public corruption investigation, so stay tuned.”
Flash forward to last week, when the Buffalo community Masecchia called home finally learned what Kennedy meant. Masecchia, the Beast reported, was allegedly working with the mafia and bribed a DEA agent to look the other way while he built his drug empire.
“In a twist worthy of The Sopranos, prosecutors allege former DEA Agent Joseph Bongiovanni blocked several investigations into Masecchia, provided him with information on drug investigations and cooperating sources—and even at times using and selling cocaine—after receiving at least $250,000 in bribes,” the Beast reported.
A 37-page indictment filed earlier this month explained that “Masecchia had been a target or subject of several DEA cases during… Bongiovanni’s venture as a DEA special agent,” but that the teacher was “never arrested or charged in any DEA cases or investigations.”
Bongiovanni was charged last November with accepting bribes to ignore organized crime activity. As the Beast reported, the filing earlier this month was the first he was linked to Masecchia.
The men were allegedly connected to La Cosa Nostra, a Sicilian Mafia that has operated in the U.S. for the past century.
Masecchia’s attorney, Terrence M. Connors, told the Beast that his client “is not now nor has he ever been, as the government alleges, a member of ‘Italian Organized Crime’ if, in fact, that designation even exists.”
Bongiovanni’s attorney told WHBW that the latest indictment “doesn’t change much as far as we’re concerned,” and that his client “still professes his innocence and we look forward to defending him at trial.”
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