Michael Masecchia, 54, taught English at Grover Cleveland High School in Buffalo, New York, for almost 30 years. He has pleaded guilty to selling cannabis in Buffalo and surrounding suburbs and possessing firearms from 1999 until his arrest in 2019.

More than 25,000 pupils passed through Masecchia’s classes, and he coached others in regular and American football and softball. He found himself on administrative leave as his case worked its way through the courts. His annual salary was $76,949, 27% higher than the average. He and others grew the drug in order to sell it. One pupil was aghast: “I’m still in shock over the whole thing. Mr Masecchia is the last person I would expect. This is straight out of a movie.”

Grover Cleveland High School employed Michael Masecchia, who pleaded guilty to selling cannabis and possessing firearms. Photo: D-Day

Grover Cleveland High School employed Michael Masecchia, who pleaded guilty to selling cannabis and possessing firearms. Photo: D-Day

The feds drop by

Masecchia was at his place of residence on Main Street, Williamsville, with his wife and two children when police, FBI and Homeland Security agents paid him a visit in August 2019. Acting on a search warrant, they found $27,950 of cash hidden in clothing, five shotguns, two rifles and a pistol, ammunition for these firearms, steroids, hypodermic needles, cocaine, seven items of home-made explosives, a digital scale and four mobile phones. One shotgun was reportedly pinched in September 2015. One rifle was next to the bed and close to ammunition “to allow quick and ready access”, according to the criminal complaint. Masecchia was evidently selling cannabis: bottles, jars and plastic bags containing cannabis, cannabis edibles and hashish were all found. He faces a jail sentence ranging from five years to life in addition to a fine of $250,000.

He was selling cannabis for at least 20 years

Barbara Burns, a spokeswoman for the local Attorney’s Office, declared, “Masecchia has been involved in the growing and distribution of significant quantities of marijuana for at least the past 20 years.”

He bribed a DEA agent

Starting in 2008, Masecchia obtained law enforcement information from Joseph Bongiovanni, then a special agent of the DEA, who ended up on trial alongside him. In return for a bribe of at least $250,000, Bongiovanni helped Masecchia and others who also had links to the mob. He supplied the names of people assisting law enforcement and whether his contacts were under investigation. Once, in 2013, another DEA agent was surveilling a warehouse in Buffalo, but Bongiovanni asked him to stop because he was running his own investigation into it; in reality, someone Bongiovanni was protecting owned it. On his last day before retiring from the DEA, Bongiovanni wiped the data from his phone and took a DEA case file on the people paying him, then hid it in his home’s basement. A law enforcement email described Masecchia as “an associate and possibly made member of the Buffalo [mob] family.” The data he received enabled Masecchia to escape prosecution for years despite cropping up in several DEA cases.

You don’t want this guy teaching your kids, do you?

At a press conference, attorney James Kennedy Jr remarked, “When one is involved in drug trafficking and has a cache of weapons at their ready access including explosive devices – certainly, if I’m a parent, I don’t want my kid to be taught by that person.” He added that this was “part of a much larger and ongoing organised crime and public corruption investigation, so stay tuned.”

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