The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reportedly quietly booted a former top official in Mexico over alleged ties to Miami-based defense attorneys representing accused narcotraffickers.
Nicholas Palmeri served just a 14-month stint as the DEA’s Regional Director of the North and Central Americas Region, based in Mexico City. He was abruptly transferred to Washington headquarters in May 2021 before he was forced to retire last March from the federal agency where he worked for over two decades.
The Associated Press, citing confidential records, reported Friday that Palmeri’s socializing and vacationing with Miami drug lawyers brought his ultimate downfall.
According to the AP, internal investigative records show Miami defense attorney David Macey hosted Palmeri and his Mexican-born wife for two days at his home in the Florida Keys — a trip that investigators said served no useful work purpose and violated rules governing interactions with attorneys that are designed to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
Palmeri’s case adds to a growing litany of misconduct roiling the nation’s premier narcotics law enforcement agency at a time when its sprawling foreign operations — spanning 69 countries — are under scrutiny from an external review ordered by DEA Administrator Anne Milgram.
That review came in response to the case of Jose Irizarry, a disgraced former agent now serving a 12-year federal prison sentence after confessing to laundering money for Colombian drug cartels and skimming millions from seizures to fund an international joyride of jet-setting, parties, and prostitutes.
Palmeri’s is the second case in recent months to shine a light on the often-cozy interactions between DEA officials and Miami attorneys representing some of Latin America’s biggest narcotraffickers and money launderers.