WASHINGTON — Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., was caught buying drugs as part of a federal investigation into a Washington, D.C., drug ring last month and is being charged with cocaine possession, according to a senior Drug Enforcement Administration official.
The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case, said several federal agencies working as part of a task force arrested a dealer who told them one of his cocaine customers was a congressman. The dealer, working with federal agents, set up a buy on Oct. 29, and Radel, a freshman congressman first elected last year, purchased the cocaine, the official said.
FBI agents later went to Radel's apartment, where they detained him, the official said. Radel hired a defense attorney who negotiated charges with a prosecutor, the official said. Law enforcement agents never handcuffed Radel or took him to jail, the official said.
Radel will appear Wednesday in District of Columbia Superior Court to face the misdemeanor cocaine possession charge. Charging documents from the U.S. attorney's office say Radel "unlawfully, knowingly and intentionally" possessed "a quantity of cocaine."
The charge is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum of 180 days in prison and/or a fine of $1,000, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
"I'm profoundly sorry to let down my family, particularly my wife and son, and the people of Southwest Florida," Radel said in a statement released Tuesday. "I struggle with the disease of alcoholism, and this led to an extremely irresponsible choice. As the father of a young son and a husband to a loving wife, I need to get help so I can be a better man for both of them."
Radel continued: "Believe me, I am disappointed in myself, and I stand ready to face the consequences of my actions. However, this unfortunate event does have a positive side. It offers me an opportunity to seek treatment and counseling. I know I have a problem and will do whatever is necessary to overcome it, hopefully setting an example for others struggling with this disease."
Radel, 37, represents Florida's 19th Congressional District, centered in the Fort Myers-Naples area, in a seat that was vacated by Republican Connie Mack when he made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate.
Radel is a former radio host, TV reporter and newspaper owner who was swept into office with Tea Party support. He was born and raised in Cincinnati, where his family owned a funeral home company.
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the incident is "between Rep. Radel, his family and his constituents."
"Members of Congress should be held to the highest standards and the alleged crime will be handled by the courts," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.
Contributing: Ledyard King, Gannett Washington Bureau.