DEA Mexico chief quietly ousted over ties to Miami based lawyers who acted for narcotraffickers

MIAMI (AP) — The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration quietly ousted its former top official in Mexico last year over improper contact with lawyers for narcotraffickers, an embarrassing end to a brief tenure marked by deteriorating cooperation between the countries and a record flow of cocaine, heroin and fentanyl across the border.

Nicholas Palmeri’s socializing and vacationing with Miami drug lawyers, detailed in confidential records viewed by The Associated Press, brought his ultimate downfall following just a 14-month stint as DEA’s powerful regional director supervising dozens of agents across Mexico, Central America and Canada.

But separate internal probes raised other red flags, including complaints of lax handling of the coronavirus pandemic that resulted in two sickened agents having to be airlifted out of the country. And another disclosed this past week found Palmeri approved use of drug-fighting funds for inappropriate purposes and sought to be reimbursed to pay for his own birthday party.

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