DEA quietly eliminated former prime official in Mexico for allegedly cozying up with Miami drug attorneys: report

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reportedly quietly booted former prime official in Mexico over alleged ties to Miami-based protection attorneys representing accused narcotraffickers. 

Nicholas Palmeri served only a 14-month stint because the DEA’s Regional Director of North and Central Americas Area, based mostly in Mexico Metropolis. He was abruptly transferred to Washington headquarters in Might 2021 earlier than he was pressured to retire final March from the federal company the place he labored for over 20 years. 

The Related Press, citing confidential information, reported Friday that Palmeri’s socializing and vacationing with Miami drug attorneys introduced his final downfall. 

In keeping with the AP, inside investigative information present Miami protection legal professional David Macey hosted Palmeri and his Mexican-born spouse for 2 days at his dwelling within the Florida Keys — a visit that investigators mentioned served no helpful work function and violated guidelines governing interactions with attorneys which might be designed to keep away from even the looks of impropriety.


A photograph posted on Twitter by the DEA’s New York division on Aug 30, 2019 exhibits Nicholas Palmeri. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration quietly eliminated Palmeri, its prime official in Mexico, in 2022 over improper contact with attorneys for narcotraffickers, an embarrassing finish to a short tenure marked by deteriorating cooperation between the nations and a file circulate of cocaine, heroin and fentanyl throughout the border. 
(DEA through AP)

Palmeri’s case provides to a rising litany of misconduct roiling the nation’s premier narcotics regulation enforcement company at a time when its sprawling overseas operations — spanning 69 nations — are underneath scrutiny from an exterior overview ordered by DEA Administrator Anne Milgram.

That overview got here in response to the case of Jose Irizarry, a disgraced former agent now serving a 12-year federal jail sentence after confessing to laundering cash for Colombian drug cartels and skimming tens of millions from seizures to fund a global joyride of jet-setting, events and prostitutes.

Palmeri’s is the second case in latest months to shine a lightweight on the often-cozy interactions between DEA officers and Miami attorneys representing a few of Latin America’s largest narcotraffickers and cash launderers. 

Final yr, federal prosecutors charged a DEA agent and a former supervisor with leaking confidential regulation enforcement data to 2 unnamed Miami protection attorneys in change for $70,000 in money. Present and former U.S. officers recognized a type of attorneys as Macey, the AP reported.

Palmeri, 52, acknowledged to investigators that he stayed at Macey’s getaway dwelling, that his spouse labored as a translator for an additional distinguished legal professional, Ruben Oliva, and that he took an unauthorized journey to Miami together with his spouse in February 2021. The purported function of the Miami journey had been to “debrief” a confidential supply. However it happened at a personal dwelling the place Palmeri confirmed up together with his spouse — and a bottle of wine, in line with the inner report.

Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Anne Milgram, speaks during a news at the Department of Justice in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. 

Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Anne Milgram, speaks throughout a information on the Division of Justice in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. 
(AP Photograph/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

“The assembly had the looks of a social interplay with a confidential supply,” the investigators wrote, “and there was no contemporaneous official DEA documentation in regards to the substance of the debrief, each of which violate DEA coverage.”

Palmeri instructed investigators he had proven “not the perfect judgment” and was transferred to DC. 

In keeping with the AP, separate inside probes raised different crimson flags, together with complaints of lax dealing with of the coronavirus pandemic that resulted in two sickened brokers having to be airlifted in another country. And one other disclosed final week discovered Palmeri authorized using drug-fighting funds for inappropriate functions and sought to be reimbursed to pay for his personal birthday celebration.

This March 2020 photo provided by the U.S. Border Patrol shows drugs seized from a tunnel under the Otay Mesa area of San Diego, Calif. 

This March 2020 photograph supplied by the U.S. Border Patrol exhibits medicine seized from a tunnel underneath the Otay Mesa space of San Diego, Calif. 
( U.S. Border Patrol through AP)

Shortly after his arrival in Mexico in 2020, the AP reported that some brokers complained about his near-obsession with capturing Rafael Caro Quintero, the notorious drug lord behind the killing of a U.S. DEA agent in 1985, saying Palmeri prioritized that over the company’s less-flashy efforts to stem the circulate of Chinese language precursor chemical compounds used to make fentanyl. Quintero was lastly taken into custody final summer time, months after the DEA recalled Palmeri to Washington.

Fox Information Digital reached out to the DEA on Sunday concerning the AP’s findings however didn’t instantly hear again.

In an e-mail to the AP, Palmeri described the misconduct probes as a “witch hunt” prompted by private {and professional} jealousies and “an ill-conceived narrative to take away me from my place.”

This undated photo provided on Jan. 24, 2020 by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows some of more than 165 pounds of suspected methamphetamine seized after smugglers tried to float it across the border from Nogales, Mexico, by roping together dozens of packages and sending them through an underground drainage tunnel into Arizona, according to federal officials. 

This undated photograph supplied on Jan. 24, 2020 by U.S. Customs and Border Safety exhibits a few of greater than 165 kilos of suspected methamphetamine seized after smugglers tried to drift it throughout the border from Nogales, Mexico, by roping collectively dozens of packages and sending them by an underground drainage tunnel into Arizona, in line with federal officers. 
( U.S. Customs and Border Safety through AP, File)

Palmeri added that his relationships with attorneys have “at all times been skilled and moral,” and that each one his expenditures in Mexico had been “considered” and benefited the U.S. authorities.


“It’s ironic,” Palmeri wrote in an e-mail, “that the Division of ‘Justice’ would commit this injustice to the nation.”

Fox Information Digital additionally reached out to Palmeri on LinkedIn however didn’t instantly hear again. 

Oliva instructed AP the interpretation work Palmeri’s spouse did for him was “completely unrelated” to Palmeri and that he is “by no means met a extra moral, hard-working and extremely efficient drug enforcement agent.”

The Related Press contributed to this report. 

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