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In DEA Corruption Case of Costanzo & Recio US Gets Attorney Barred As Trial Counsel

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell Book
BBC-Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN NY Mag

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Oct 25 – On May 20 DOJ announced that "JOHN COSTANZO JR., a Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent, and MANUEL RECIO, a former DEA Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge, were indicted in Manhattan federal court with conspiracy to bribe a public official, conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, and honest services wire fraud, for a scheme in which RECIO funneled tens of thousands of dollars to COSTANZO in exchange for COSTANZO providing sensitive law enforcement information to RECIO to assist RECIO in recruiting clients for defense lawyers."  

Costanzo appeared the in the 2022 U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Magistrates Court that day and was released on $30,000 bond. His case was assigned to District Judge J. Paul Oekten, who held a conference in the case on June 6. Inner City Press attended and live tweeted, below.

On July 15, Judge Oekten held another conference, which Inner City Press live tweeted here:

Assistant US Attorney: We anticipate calling Recio's lawyer Philip L Reizenstein as a witness. So we'd be happy to do an oral argument. But bringing people up from Florida?

AUSA: This was a $20,000 payment via a shell company, we believe the invoice about the Johnny Grobman case was a sham.

Recio's lawyer Philip Reizenstein: I'm not going to call it a shell company. And I wasn't with the firm that hired Mr. Recio as an investigator

Judge Oetken: You were one of three lawyers on the case, right?

Reizenstein: That is absolutely correct... Recio was hired to looking into a corruption matter in Suriname.

Outcome: joint status report due in a week, with a possible stipulation being discussed. Inner City Press will stay on the case - and this upcoming filings.

Afterward: "Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge J. Paul Oetken: Status Conference as to John Costanzo, Jr, Manuel Recio held on 7/15/2022. Defendant John Costanzo present with attorneys Marc Mukasey, Stephanie Guaba and Torrey Young; Defendant Manuel Recio present with attorney Phillip Reizenstein; AUSA Sebastian Swett present; Court Reporter present. Telephonic status conference held: Status letter due by 7/22/2022."

From June 6: Recio, it seems, needs a Curcio hearing of potential conflict of interest.

Judge Oetken: Any search warrant? AUSA: Yes. And a wire tap. AUSA: For Mr Costanzo there's an audio recording. [When will the Press and public get a copy?] 

Judge: Any superseder of additional defendants?

AUSA: It's on the table.

Mukasey: So are motions against the searches, under the 4th Amendment. 

Mukasey: We'll be asking for the earliest trial date possible. But not yet. Judge: Motions then a conference Nov 4 at 11 am, Speedy Trial Act excluded until then.   AUSA: Recio's lawyer may have a conflict - he's a potential witness.

Recio's lawyer worked for him in Miami, referred by a firm which paid Recio. But he says he didn't sit at counsel table.  AUSA: If there's a plea, the conflict would be moot. 

 US letter alleging conflict on Patreon here.

Later, this summary: "Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge J. Paul Oetken: Pretrial Conference as to John Costanzo, Jr., Manuel Recio held on 6/6/2022. Defendant John Costanzo present with attorneys Marc Mukasey and Torrey Young; Defendant Manuel Recio present with attorney Phillip Reizenstein; AUSA Sebastian Swett present; Court Reporter present. Initial conference held: Motions due by 9/9/2022 with responses by 10/7/2022 and replies by 10/21/2022. Next conference set for 11/4/2022 at 11:00am. Time is excluded to 11/4/2022. Bail continued."

On June 27 the US Attorney's Office formally sought the disqualification of Philip Reisenstein, affirming they spoke with him on June 22 and told him he would likely be a witness at trial, necessitating his withdrawal. "Rezenstein informed the Government that he would not be withdrawing his representation and the Government could move to disqualify him."

On October 26, Judge Oetken ruled: "OPINION AND ORDER as to John Costanzo, Jr., Manuel Recio. The Defendants in this case are charged in connection with an alleged scheme to bribe DEA employees. In short, the indictment alleges that from 2018 to 2019, Defendant Manuel Recio, a former DEA agent, made payments that ultimately went to Defendant John Costanzo, a then-current DEA agent, in exchange for nonpublic DEA information. The Government has moved to disqualify Recio's retained lawyer, Philip L. Reizenstein, on the ground that Reizenstein is likely to be called as a witness in the Government's case at trial. (ECF No. 27.) Recio opposes the motion....the Government's motion to disqualify Mr. Reizenstein is granted to the extent that Mr. Reizenstein will not be permitted to serve as trial counsel for Mr. Recio in this case. He will, however, be allowed to serve as defense counsel for all purposes other than trial counsel." Watch this site.

The case is US v. Costanzo, 22-cr-281 (Oetken) 


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