NIAGARA FALLS – Minutes after undercover agents arrested a suspect in a drug buy last week, detectives went with a warrant to the house he shared with his girlfriend – a Niagara Falls cop.
There they found 5.6 grams of cocaine and scales on a dresser in Officer Stephanie Costanzo's Grand Avenue home, according to police. Agents also found baggies on the floor for packaging cocaine and more than $400 in cash in a bottom drawer of the dresser.
Costanzo lived there with her boyfriend, Raymond C. Hopson, who allegedly made a large drug sale to an undercover agent about ten minutes before the warrant was served.
Costanzo, 28, a three-year veteran of the force, is due in Niagara Falls City Court with her lawyer today. She was arrested Nov. 9 following the search of her home and police confiscated her duty weapon, two other handguns, and a pair of handcuffs. Costanzo was charged with third and fourth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, both felonies; second-degree possession of drug paraphernalia and unlawful possession of marijuana. She was released on her own recognizance last week at her first court appearance.
Because Costanzo is a uniformed officer, Police Chief E. Bryan DalPorto and Deputy Superintendent Carl Cain were on the scene during the search of Constanzo's house at 11:43 a.m. Nov. 9.
DalPorto called the incident "disappointing."
Costanzo was immediately suspended without pay and an internal investigation has already begun, DalPorto said.
He said the DEA was brought into the four-month drug investigation because of the amount of drugs involved.
"I wish we never had to do it," DalPorto said of the arrest of one of his officers. "But the joint investigation shows we are willing to police ourselves."
Costanzo is not accused of any wrongdoing on duty, according to detectives, nor was she a target of the investigation. The charges resulted from the property found during the search warrant.
At 11:20 a.m. Nov. 9, narcotics detectives, assisted by support from DEA agents, along with air support from a Customs and Border air unit and a Niagara Falls patrol unit, executed a controlled buy from Hopson, 32. Hopson went to the scene of the buy in a vehicle registered to Constanzo, according to the police report.
Detectives said Hopson sold two ounces of crack cocaine to the undercover agent for $3,500. After the sale was complete, the take down team attempted to arrest Hopson. He tried to flee on foot and was arrested a few feet away. According to the report, he tried to toss the cash, but it was recovered.
Detectives and agents also conducted a warrant search just after noon last week Wednesday at the Willow Avenue home of Lindsay R. Carrier, 31, who was also a suspect in the investigation. He was charged after agents found four clear bags containing crack cocaine with a cocaine base of 79.3 grams, two baggies with powder cocaine weighing 60.9 grams, as well as 50 grams of marijuana, a digital scale, a spoon with white residue, hydrocodone and unidentified pills.
Both men were charged with second-degree conspiracy, third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, second-degree possession of drug paraphernalia and unlawful possession of marijuana. Carrier was additionally charged with second-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. Hopson was additionally charged with second-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and fourth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.
Hopson and Carrier appeared for hearings in Niagara Falls City Court on Tuesday. Hopson remains in Niagara County Jail on $50,000 bail with a return court date for an attorney appearance on Dec. 9. Carrier was held without bail with a Dec. 19 return court date.
Story topics: crime