Ecstasy- Former strip-club owner pleads guilty to drug charges

By Terrapinzflyer · Dec 10, 2009 · ·
  1. Terrapinzflyer
    Former strip-club owner pleads guilty to drug charges

    Former strip-club owner Lance Migliaccio pleaded guilty Wednesday to five felony counts of possessing Ecstasy with the intent of distributing the drug and faces five years in prison as part of the plea agreement.

    Migliaccio, who once owned La Boheme in Denver, is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn on March 5.

    Migliaccio's indictment included charges that he possessed powerful military-grade explosives along with the drug allegations, but prosecutors intend to dismiss the weapons charges as part of the plea agreement.

    Prosecutor Colleen Covell declined to say why the explosives charges won't be pursued.

    Blackburn could decide to forgo the sentence recommended by prosecutors and order Migliaccio to spend 20 years in prison on each count if he decides the agreement is not appropriate.

    Migliaccio also is expected to forfeit his property because prosecutors allege drug profits were used to purchase his home.

    The case against Migliaccio exposed a disagreement within the Drug Enforcement Administration over the way the investigation was handled.

    A DEA agent testified during one of Migliaccio's hearings that the investigation into his crimes was cut short in 2001 because the head of the DEA was in Denver from Washington, D.C., and that higher-ups wanted to hold a news conference about some of the indictments that already had been made.

    The agents were not ready to expose their case to the public because they thought the investigation was still two levels below Migliaccio in the drug-distribution ring, the agent testified.

    Jeff Sweetin, DEA special agent in charge of the Denver office, has said that the agent was "under informed" about the decision to halt the investigation in 2001.

    The DEA began watching Migliaccio because several informants said he was the leader of an Ecstasy ring and was transporting the drugs from Amsterdam to Denver in hollowed-out furniture.

    By Felisa Cardona
    The Denver Post

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  1. Terrapinzflyer
    and a little searching turns up this article from back in August

    DEA Agent: Drug Investigation Stopped For Publicity
    Former Strip Club Owner Lance Migliaccio Was Targeted Previously By DEA

    DENVER -- The Drug Enforcement Administration suspected that a former strip club owner was a major Ecstasy distributor in Denver since 2001 but stopped the investigation for “political reasons,” a DEA agent testified Monday.

    DEA Special Agent Thomas Miller testified that confidential informants told authorities as early as 2001 that Lance Migliaccio smuggled large amounts of Ecstasy into Denver from Amsterdam. Migliaccio was indicted two months ago on four counts of possessing Ecstasy for distribution.

    But in 2001, the DEA made arrests of lower-level dealers so that they could get publicity during a top administrator’s visit, Miller said.

    “The DEA administrator was coming to town and wanted to do a press release on the operation,” Miller testified.

    Migliaccio’s attorney Harvey Steinberg asked Miller later to clarify.
    “He wanted to do a press conference and shut (the 2001 investigation) down?” Steinberg asked.

    “That was part of it,” Miller said.

    Miller testified that federal agents were investigating Migliaccio since 2001, but were unable to make a case because he careful and stayed away from the “hand to hand” distribution of the drug. Miller said Migliaccio and his partner, who owned a furniture store, smuggled the drugs in hollowed out furniture.

    DEA Special Agent In Charge Jeffrey Sweetin said Miller must have misspoke, and Miller wasn't involved with the 2001 case so he had no first-hand knowledge of what happened.

    "I don't believe it happened," Sweetin, who declined to go on camera, said in a phone interview. "It's not how it happened."

    Sweetin said Migliaccio wasn't arrested in 2001 because investigators did not believe they had enough evidence to convict him.

    "We had enough to indict him, we had enough to arrest him, but we're not sure we could get a conviction," he said. "You only get so many bites at the apple."

    Sweetin said he has not experienced a case where there is pressure to rush an investigation for political reasons, but drug agents must decide when to make arrests to best protect the community.

    Migliaccio was arrested Aug. 4 after, court records show, he tried traded nearly 2,000 Ecstasy tablets and a 40 mm high-explosive shell for a machine gun and two silencers. A search of his Highlands Ranch home uncovered a dozen more 40 mm shells, a small amount of C-4 high explosive, detonator cord and other explosives components, court records show.

    Federal agents also initially thought they had recovered more than a kilogram of heroin, but further tests found it to be Ecstasy powder, Miller testified. Federal agents said they found additional Ecstasy pills and steroids in Migliaccio’s house. Steinberg said in court that Migliaccio had a prescription for the steroids.

    Migliaccio was in court Monday to determine whether he should be released on $50,000 bond, but a federal prosecutor argued that he is a danger to the community.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Colleen Covell said prosecutors are going to the grand jury this week to get an additional 15-count indictment for the explosives and weapons found at Migliaccio’s home. The indictment is also expected to include carrying weapons during commission of a drug crime, she said.

    Covell argued that Migliaccio was a flight risk because he had two passports – only one of which authorities found – and he had a mine in Mexico and owned a house and nightclub in South Africa.

    “The community will not be safe if the defendant is released,” she said. “There is no sporting purpose (for the explosives). Those are designed to destroy and injure people.”

    Covell also tried to tie Migliaccio to an attempted shooting of an informant and a separate attempted shooting of a Migliaccio business partner -- both in 2004. But Steinberg pointed out Migliaccio was never arrested or charged in either incident, and Migliaccio won a civil lawsuit by the former partner who had alleged the attempted shooting.

    Steinberg said other than a 1989 misdemeanor conviction for possession of steroids, his client has no history of criminal behavior and there is no evidence that Migliaccio tried to flee while under previous federal investigations.

    He also argued that Migliaccio was holding the explosives for the confidential informant.

    “Maybe the government was wrong,” Steinberg said. “The gun shop owner owned all this stuff.”

    A magistrate judge had ruled that Migliaccio should be released on bond, and U.S. District Court Judge Robert Blackburn is expected to decide whether to uphold that ruling in the next couple of days.

    By: Tom Burke Arthur Kane and Tony Kovaleski,
    CALL7 Investigators
    1:58 pm MDT August 24, 2009
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