BUFFALO — A former Falls police officer, her boyfriend and another man have all pleaded guilty to federal drug-related charges.
Former officer Stephanie Costanzo, 29, pleaded guilty to managing a drug-involved premises during a proceeding Monday before Senior U.S. District Court Judge Richard Arcara in Buffalo.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
At the same time, Costanzo's boyfriend, Raymond Hopson and co-dfenedant Lindsay Carrier both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute, 28 grams or more of crack cocaine. Those charges are punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, a maximum of 40 years and a fine of $5 million.
Details of a five-month-long investigation into the trio were detailed in an affidavit from Drug Enforcement Administration Task Officer (and Falls Police Narcotics Detective) Christopher Clark. Concerned that Costanzo would recognize and be aware of the actions of local narcotics investigators, Clark’s affidavit indicates that task force agents used an undercover Buffalo police detective to make a series of controlled purchases of cocaine and crack cocaine beginning in July 2016.
On July 28, Hopson sold the BPD detective 0.5 grams of crack, unaware that he was sitting in an undercover police vehicle.
“Once in the vehicle, Hopson had a conversation regarding prices and future purchases with the (undercover detective),” Clark wrote. “Hopson told the (undercover detective) that, in the future, he could get him good quality ‘stuff’ (referencing cocaine) because he does not put much baking soda in his crack cocaine.”
Hopson also told the detective he could acquire large quantities of crack and powdered cocaine.
On Aug. 11, Hopson sold the detective an “eight ball” (1/8 of an ounce) of crack. On Sept. 27, driving a Jeep registered to Costanzo, Hopson sold 6 grams of crack to the undercover agent.
On Nov. 1, after dropping off Costanzo at the home they shared at 2930 Grand Ave., Hopson met the undercover detective and sold him more than 23 grams of crack.
By Nov. 8, the DEA agents were ready to close their trap. The undercover detective made arrangements to meet Hopson and purchase 2 ounces of crack.
After paying Hopson $3,500 for the drugs, DEA agents and Falls police swooped in and arrested Hopson. Clark, in his affidavit, said Hopson admitted the cocaine sales to investigators.
On Nov. 9, agents went to Costanzo and Hopson's Grand Avenue home, armed with a search warrant. When they knocked on the door, Costanzo, then a three-year member of the Falls Police force, answered the door.
They told Costanzo her boyfriend had been dealing crack out of their home and asked her to open a locked bedroom door. Inside the room, investigators found plastic bags containing a gram of marijuana and 5.6 grams of cocaine, along with a digital scale and a substance used as a cutting agent for cocaine.
In the home’s master bedroom, shared by Hopson and Costanzo, investigators discovered a container with 5.6 grams of powered cocaine, marijuana, a marijuana grinder shaped like a pistol cylinder and a empty magazine for a Smith & Wesson handgun lying next to a marijuana blunt.
A similar search at Carrier’s mother’s home turned up a digital scale, over 79 grams of crack cocaine, more than 60 grams of powdered cocaine, 10 grams of pot and more than 8 Hydrocodone pills.
After the raid at her home, Costanzo agreed to talk to Clark and another DEA investigator. When they asked Costanzo about times that she drove with Hopson as he appeared to be making drug sales, she said “she thought he was selling drugs because he would return to the vehicle with money in his pockets.”
She said Hopson told her “that people owed him money.” And Costanzo admitted that when she drove with Hopson, she was armed with a Smith & Wesson Body Guard .380 caliber semi-automatic pistol.
“Costanzo was asked if she confronted Hopson (about having cocaine in their house) and she stated that she did not because she didn’t want to know or believe what he was doing,” Clark wrote in his affidavit.
Asked a second time, why, as a police officer, she never confronted Hopson about his drug dealing, Costanzo said, “she didn’t want to believe that he was selling drugs.”
Investigators have said that Costanzo was not suspected of nor charged with any wrongdoing while on duty. They also said there was no evidence that she used her position to further any of Hopson’s activities.
Costanzo resigned from the Falls Police Department shortly after her arrest.