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February 2023


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Tag: DEA

DEA Booted Top Official in Mexico over Cozy Relationship with Drug Lawyers

By Steve Neavling

The DEA quietly removed a former top official in Mexico for allegedly having ties to Miami-based defense attorneys representing accused drug traffickers.

Nicholas Palmeri is accused of socializing and vacationing with Miami drug lawyers after serving 14 months as the DEA’s regional director, the Associated Press reports, citing confidential records.

Palmeri, who worked for the agency for more than two decades, was transferred to Washington headquarters in May 2021 before his forced retirement in March 2022. 

“The post of regional director in Mexico is the most important one in DEA’s foreign operations, and when something like this happens, it’s disruptive,” Mike Vigil, the DEA’s former chief of international operations, said.

According to internal investigative records, Miami defense attorney David Macey hosted Palmeri and his wife at his home in the Florida Keys. The trip was not work-related and violated rules governing interactions with attorneys, the records state. 

Palmeri, 53, admitted to investigators that he had stayed at Macey’s home and that his Mexican-born wife worked as a translator for another prominent attorney, Ruben Oliva. 

He acknowledged that he also took an unauthorized trip to Miami in February 2021, when he said he was debriefing a confidential source. But the party took place at a private home, and Palmeri arrived with his wife and a bottle of wife, according to the internal report. 

“The meeting had the appearance of a social interaction with a confidential source,” the investigators wrote, “and there was no contemporaneous official DEA documentation concerning the substance of the debrief, both of which violate DEA policy.”

Those violations led to Palmeri being transferred to Washington headquarters. 

New Haven Man Accused of Crashing into DEA Agents, Injuring Them During Surveillance Operation

By Steve Neavling

A New Haven man accused of crashing a minivan into a car carrying DEA special agents was indicted on charges of distributing fentanyl and crack cocaine, the Justice Department announced Thursday. 

Dereck Brock, 36, was under surveillance by the DEA’s New Haven Task Force and New Haven Police Department at 5:20 a.m. on Jan. 10 when he was suspected of distributing narcotics. 

When a law enforcement vehicle tried to stop Brock’s vehicle, he allegedly fled at a high-rate of speed through stop sticks that deflated the minivan’s tires before he crashed head-on with the vehicle carrying two DEA agents. 

Brock and the two agents were injured and taken to a hospital. 

The injuries were non-life-threatening. 

Brock faces up to 20 years in prison on one count of possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and crack cocaine. 

Brock remained in custody as of Thursday. 

Ex-DEA Agent Charged with Second-Degree Murder 5 Months After Road-Rage Incident

By Steve Neavling

A retired DEA agent who shot another man during a road-rage encounter in Florida is now facing a charge of second-degree murder with a firearm. 

Bradley Sosnowsky, who was a DEA special agent from 1999 to 2014 and a Secret Service special agent from 1995 to 1999, was originally charged with aggravated battery with a firearm and discharging a firearm from a vehicle.

The new charge comes after the alleged victim, Thomas Vanatwerp, died in September, Fox 29 reports.

After the shooting, Vantatwerp was hospitalized and in critical condition with a gunshot wound in his upper left chest. 

The incident occurred at about 3:45 p.m. on Aug. 1 as Sosnowsky’s car and another vehicle exited Interstate 95 at Boynton Beach Boulevard in Boynton Beach. 

Their cars were stopped at a red light when Sosnowsky told police that he shot Vantatwerp in self-defense. 

But prosecutors say video of the incident tells another story: The 67-year-old driver made no threats and didn’t have a weapon. 

Sosnowsky posted bond on Aug. 5 and is awaiting a trial. 

Man Never Charged in Murder of DEA Agent at Tucson Amtrak Station

DEA Agent Michael Garbo

By Steve Neavling

A man accused of being involved in the fatal shooting of a DEA agent at the Tucson Amtrak Station in October 2021 was never charged in connection with the murder. 

Devonte Okeith Mathis was sitting in the back of the train with 24-year-old Darrion Taylor when DEA Agent Michael Garbo spotted Mathis retrieve several bags. 

Taylor is accused of fatally shooting Garbo and wounding a city police officer before barricading himself in the bathroom. Taylor died at the scene. 

Although authorities said Mathis was involved in the shooting, he was never charged in connection with it, reports.

Instead, Mathis was charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana. 

Mathis has pleaded not guilty to that charge and is set to go to trial in April. 

It’s not clear why Mathis wasn’t charged in the shooting. 

DEA Seized Massive Amounts of Fentanyl in 2022

Rainbow fentanyl pills seized by the DEA. Photo via DEA.

By Steve Neavling

The DEA seized more than 379 million deadly doses of fentanyl this year, enough to kill every American. 

The DEA revealed Wednesday that it had seized 50.6 million fentanyl-laced bills and 10,000 pounds of the synthetic opioid powder, ABC reports

“These seizures – enough deadly doses of fentanyl to kill every American – reflect the DEA’s unwavering commitment to protect Americans and save lives, by tenaciously pursuing those responsible for the trafficking of fentanyl across the United States,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in a statement.

The seizures come at a time when overdoses are reaching alarming levels.  

CBP also announced a record amount of fentanyl was seized at the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2022. 

In April, the DEA warned of an alarming increase in fentanyl deaths. In the 12-month period ending in October 2021, more than 105,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, and 66% of those deaths were from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, according to the CDC. More Americans are dying from fentanyl overdoses than gun- and auto-related deaths combined. 

DEA Agent Puts Would-Be Carjacker in Hospital

Carjacking suspect Zachary Bell, via Facebook

By Steve Neavling

A would-be carjacker picked the wrong man to mess with. 

After finishing his shift, a DEA agent was stopped at a red light in Manhattan when Zachary Bell approached his government-issued vehicle and demanded he “get the f—k out of the car,” according to a criminal complaint filed in Manhattan Federal Court, the New York Post reports.

When Bell, of Maplewood, N.J., reached toward his waistband, the agent took action. 

The seven-year veteran assigned to the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force activated his police lights, pulled out his own gun, struck Bell in the face, tackled him, and handcuffed him before calling the police. 

Bell sustained “severe” facial injuries that required surgery, his attorney said. 

The identity of the agent was not released. 

Man Who Posed As DEA Agent Sentenced to Time Served in Federal Court

By Steve Neavling

A 42-year-man who tricked people into believing he was a DEA agent was sentenced in federal court to time served. 

Robert Edward Golden spent less than a month in custody after he was arrested in February. 

“I would like to apologize for my actions, also for deceiving those who I love and care about,” Golden told U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman, The Oregonian reports. “I admit that I have a problem.”

Golden was arrested after police found him posing as a DEA agent and wearing a vest with “DEA Police” patches, handcuffs, badges, a BB gun that resembled an AR-15-style rifle, body-armor-plate carrier and DEA credentials.

For a year, Golden had convinced a woman she was a DEA agent in training. 

A curious Portland police officer questioned Golden and the woman when he spotted a tactical vest bearing a DEA patch in the open trunk of his car. 

When approached, Golden is accused of saying that he and his “trainee” were “feds.” 

The woman was not charged and said that she had been given a DEA badge and photo ID by Golden.

The pair went practice shooting and conducted night surveillance “ride-alongs.”

Golden had faced up to three years in prison. 

Fallen DEA Agent Remembered During Bench Dedication Ceremony

Bench dedicated to fallen DEA Agent Paul A. Seema. Photo via DEA.

By Steve Neavling

A DEA agent who was killed in a shootout with drug dealers in 1988 was recently honored in a bench dedication ceremony in Minnesota. 

Paul S. Seema’s name graces a black granite bench outside a library in New Prague. 

Seema’s wife Joy and their two sons Jayson and Santi attended the ceremony at the Knights of Columbus hall. 

“We want the families of our fallen agents to know that they’re not forgotten,” retired Special Agent David Jacobson of the DEA Survivors Benefits Fund said at the ceremony. “We started this process of getting the bench placed in New Prague in recognition of Paul about a year ago. This is a landmark that will not only remind the Seema’s and New Prague community of Paul’s work with DEA, but will also provide a constant reminder that there are a lot of Americans who continue to hold Paul’s family close to heart.”

Seema was among three undercover agents who were shot while negotiating with a Taiwanese criminal group to buy heroin for $80,000. While meeting a trafficker in a quiet Pasadena neighborhood to pick up two pounds of heroin, multiple traffickers planned to rob and kill them in an ambush for the money. 

Special Agent George Montoya also was killed, and another agent was wounded. 

Seema died the following day. 

Seema’s family moved to Minnesota shortly after he was killed. 

The DEA Survivor Benefits Fund was created in 1997 to provide financial and educational assistance to the families of DEA agents and task force officers killed in the line of duty.