A former Niagara Falls police officer who pleaded guilty to federal drug charges has been sentenced to probation by a judge in Buffalo.
During an appearance in court on Wednesday, 29-year-old ex-cop Stephanie Costanzo received a sentence of one to three years probation from U.S. District Court Judge Richard Arcara.
Costanzo faced a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine after admitting to managing a drug-involved premises along with her boyfriend and another man.
The boyfriend, Raymond Hopson, and co-defendant Lindsay Carrier, have both also 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.
They face sentencing after Costanzo.
Despite the maximum penalties that Costanzo faces, federal sentencing guidelines allowed for the judge to give her a sentence of one to three years probation or as much as six months in jail and a fine of $1,000.
The details of a five-month-long federal investigation of Costanzo, Hopson and Carrier 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.
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.
The Niagara Gazette will provide additional information about her sentencing and court appearance online and in Thursday's print edition.