Investigators asked an upstate New York cop point blank why she didn’t do anything when she suspected her boyfriend was selling drugs.
Former Niagara Falls police officer Stephanie Costanzo, 29, gave a simple answer: She “didn’t want to believe he was selling drugs” — despite the fact that she knew Raymond Hopson, 35, was storing crack cocaine, marijuana and digital drug scales in her home, and the fact that Costanzo rode along with Hopson during apparent drug sales, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York.
A federal judge sentenced Hopson to 60 months in prison on Monday, federal prosecutors said. Hopson pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges in February. Costanzo, meanwhile, was sentenced to three months probation last month after she pleaded guilty in February to managing drug involved premises.
Hopson’s drug-dealing conspiracy began to unravel in 2016, when he made several crack cocaine sales between July 28 and Nov. 8 to a person he didn’t realize was an undercover police officer, prosecutors said. Hopson got the crack cocaine from Lindsay Carrier, who also pleaded guilty to federal drug charges and was sentenced to 70 months in prison, prosecutors said.
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As Hopson sold drugs to the undercover officer the first time, he assured the cop it was good “stuff” because “he does not put much baking soda in his crack cocaine,” according to a criminal complaint.
When Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local police showed up to raid Costanzo’s home on Nov. 9, 2016, Costanzo was home and answered the door, the complaint said. As officers began the search they found a second-floor bedroom locked and asked Costanzo why.
“Because my boyfriend’s friend stayed over last night and he has a little stealing problem,” she responded, according to the criminal complaint. Costanzo said there was nothing of value in the room and handed over the key, the complaint said.
In the room, investigators found a plastic sandwich bag full of marijuana, another with more than five grams of cocaine, a black digital scale, and $453 in cash, according to the complaint. There was also creatine in the room, which dealers use to cut cocaine.
In another bedroom — where the couple slept — officers uncovered an orange plastic container of what appeared to be cocaine, “scattered marijuana,” a pistol cylinder-shaped marijuana grinder, more sandwich bags and an empty gun magazine, the complaint said.
A search of Carrier’s mother’s home revealed even larger quantities of cocaine, crack cocaine, and cash, prosecutors said. He also had a clear bag containing hydrocodone pills and clear glass jars with 10 grams of marijuana inside.
When authorities interviewed Costanzo after the searches, Costanzo admitted she suspected her boyfriend was dealing drugs because they would drive around to different houses, and he would return to the car with cash in his pockets, the complaint said. She would go along with him on those excursions two or three times a week, bringing along a gun in her purse.
Investigators then asked Costanzo about the last time she’d seen Hopson with cocaine.
She responded that it was a few days earlier “when she handed him the scale that was in her bedroom on the nightstand and Hopson went into the other bedroom, closed the door then emerged from the room stating that he had something on his hands, and that he needed to wash what looked like white powder,” according to the complaint.
Defense lawyer Joseph M. LaTona argued that Costanzo was going through a rough patch at the time.
“She had a bad marriage, she had a painful divorce, and she was basically at the most vulnerable time in her life,” LaTona told the Buffalo News.
Costanzo didn’t help with the drug dealing, prosecutors said, but that didn’t absolve her entirely.
“She wasn’t part of the conspiracy,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel L. Violanti said, according to the Buffalo News. “It’s our belief Hopson was strategically using her.”