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Criminal: Incarcerated For A Theoretical Crime

Illustration for Criminal podcast
Julienne Alexander


Danny Egipciaco is serving a prison sentence for a crime he didn't commit. He never actually got the chance to. 

He was targeted by a the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force. They were running a reverse sting operation. That's when authorities are involved in the actual planning of a crime. 

Phoebe Judge takes a closer look in this week's episode of Criminal, a podcast produced in the WUNC studios and hosted by Judge.  

The reverse sting started when Egipciaco was approached by a man named Jimmy, who claimed to be a friend of a friend. Jimmy propositioned Egipciaco to join him in robbing a drug dealer.  

"I obviously needed more information," Egipciaco said. "I had never done anything like this before." 

They were going to split the spoils of the drugs in half, and the payout potential was great. 

"$100,000 is lowballing it because at the end of the day, if it's 10 keys [kilograms], then potentially wholesale, let's say $20,000 a key. That's over $200,000," Egipciaco said. "The potential of the money that was there was the only thing that was keeping me like, 'Maybe this is something that can happen.' I don’t know. I was open to hearing him out further." 

When they met up again, Jimmy didn't want to wait for the robbery. He wanted to go right then.  

"By the time the car had arrived at the place where this was all going to go down, cops swarmed Danny’s car, and he was ambushed and arrested," Judge said. 

He was arrested for a crime that had yet to happen. 

"The interesting thing is Danny says he never could have done anything because the whole plot was imaginary," Judge said. "These are operations that the government has been using over the past few years at an increasing pace. "They’re called reverse sting operations. What happens is the government sets up a whole potential crime. They then go out and find people who would be willing to take part in this imaginary crime. Once they’ve sufficiently found enough evidence that, Danny in this case, was going to go through with it, they arrest the suspect." 

The government justifies the reverse stings by claiming they're stopping people who intended to commit a crime, similar to a conspiracy charge in a terrorism plot. 

"Authorities say, 'Listen something is going to happen,'" Judge said. "'We have enough reason to believe this. Harm could be so great that we’re going to stop it.' The problem is that it’s somewhat policing someone’s mind because we don’t know that Danny couldn’t have gotten to the house and said, 'I’m not going to go through with this.'"

Another complication is the fact that Danny never could have carried through with a crime in the fake scenario set up by the government. 

"There are a number of men in prison right now and they’re there for rather long sentences," Judge said. "Danny is serving 25 years. He’s serving 25 years because he’s been charged for the amount of imaginary drugs he would have stolen."

To find out more, visit Also, you can hear the latest episode of Criminal on WUNC at 5:40 p.m. on Sunday.

Phoebe Judge is an award-winning journalist whose work has been featured on a numerous national radio programs. She regularly conducts interviews and anchors WUNC's broadcast of Here & Now. Previously, Phoebe served as producer, reporter and guest host for the nationally distributed public radio program The Story. Earlier in her career, Phoebe reported from the gulf coast of Mississippi. She covered the BP oil spill and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for Mississippi Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio. Phoebe's work has won multiple Edward R. Murrow and Associated Press awards. Phoebe was born and raised in Chicago and is graduate of Bennington College and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.
Eric Hodge hosts WUNC’s broadcast of Morning Edition, and files reports for the North Carolina news segments of the broadcast. He started at the station in 2004 doing fill-in work on weekends and All Things Considered.
Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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