MIAMI, Fla. – Federal investigators took the unusual step of wiretapping a retired supervisor in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Miami office as part of an inquiry into whether sensitive case information was leaked to attorneys for suspected drug traffickers in Colombia, current and former law enforcement officials told The Associated Press.
The inquiry comes amid a string of DEA scandals and has sent a chill through South Florida's close-knit, fiercely competitive narco-defense circles because of former supervisor Manny Recio's strong ties to federal law enforcement and private-sector lawyers.
The FBI wiretapped Recio for at least three months last year while he worked in his post-retirement job as a private investigator for defense lawyers — an extraordinary step requiring approval from a federal judge and the highest levels of the Justice Department. Agents also seized and searched his cellphone.
Federal prosecutors in New York declined to comment, but three former and one current law enforcement official familiar with the investigation say it is focused on the flow of information between the DEA and Miami lawyers who represent alleged narcotraffickers and money launderers from Colombia. Among those lawyers is Luis Guerra, who contracted Recio as an investigator shortly after he retired from the DEA in 2018.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing case, said the probe is focused on Recio's interaction with defense lawyers and agents he worked with at the DEA, including Special Agent John Costanzo, whose phone was similarly searched.
Phil Reizenstein, a Miami lawyer representing Recio, said he was told late last year by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan that the former DEA agent was not a target of a criminal investigation nor had a grand jury been summoned to investigate him.
“I have reviewed Manny’s work on cases and found it to be impeccable, and I have no concerns that he did anything that was close to being illegal,” Reizenstein said. “He devoted his career to the DEA. He has held himself to the highest standards and the same law-abiding ideals in his private work.”
Guerra and Costanzo declined to comment.