January 13, 2021 – Buffalo mob associate and con man Joe Bella was busted for pandemic profiteering by selling fraudulent COVID-19 test kits at the peak of last year’s Coronavirus lockdown. The Buffalo News first reported on the details of Bella’s case Tuesday.
Bella, 48, is connected to recently deceased Buffalo mafia capo Frank (Butchie Bifocals) Bifulco. He is facing drug and weapons charges stemming from an April 2020 raid at his home and office where the feds found guns, ammunition and a bank account for his sketchy on-line disaster prep business storing $115,000 in it.
Federal authorities are expected to indict him soon on fraud charges related to the bogus $29.99-priced “crisis kits” and more than $150,000 in COVID-19 relief he pilfered for himself in disaster loans and Pandemic Payroll Protection Plan payouts from the U.S. government. Bella has pleaded not guilty in his current case.
The FBI has investigated Bella for drug trafficking in Buffalo through a series of bars and ties to Butchie Bifocals and retired DEA agent Joe Bongiovanni. DEA agents and U.S. Border Patrol have surveilled Bella making trips between New York and Canada, some in a boat, ferrying narcotics. Authorities found pictures and videos of Bella with Bifulco on Bella’s cell phone in a detainment at the border five years ago.
“Renaissance Man” mobster Butchie Bifocals Bifulco died of natural causes back in October at 76 years old after decades of wowing the Western New York underworld with his trademark gangland innovation. Bongiovanni retired from the DEA in 2019 and quickly arrested for taking bribes from organized crime figures linked to the Buffalo mob and reputed boss Joseph (Big Joe) Todaro, Jr. , specifically Big Joe’s strip-club owner nephew Peter Gerace, Jr.
Bella moonlights as an actor. He has a rap sheet that includes the assault of a police officer. One New York Police Department memo circulated in the Homeland Security Department two years ago named Bella as a go-between for Buffalo’s Magaddino crime family and New York’s Colombo crime family. The memo claims Colombo wiseguys refer to Bella as “Joe Beauty.”