Former DEA agent sentenced to 12 years of drug money regime

A former Drug Enforcement Administration special agent was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison on Thursday after pleading guilty to participating in a large conspiracy that used the money seized from drug infiltration operations to buy drugs. jewelry, cars and a house in Colombia, prosecutors said.

Former agent Jose Ismael Irizarry, 47, and his wife, Nathalia Gomez-Irizarry, pleaded guilty in September to charges of carrying out a seven-year ploy to channel more than $ 9 million in investigations secret drugs in bank accounts that they and their co-conspirators controlled.

One of those co-conspirators was the head of a Colombian drug trafficking organization who became the godfather of Mr. Irizarry’s children, according to federal prosecutors in Tampa, Florida.

Mr. Irizarry pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money market instruments, wire fraud of honest services, bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

Ms. Gomez-Irizarry pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. She was sentenced in December 2020 to 60 months probation and ordered to confiscate a Tiffany diamond ring, according to the Office of the Inspector General of the US Department of Justice.

Mr Irizarry, who had worked for the DEA in Miami, Cartagena, Colombia and Washington before resigning in 2018, was arrested in February 2020 with Ms Gomez-Irizarry near their home in San Juan, PR.

In an indictment of 19 counts, Mr Irizarry was charged with participating in a “corruption scheme” while charged with investigating money laundering by trafficking organizations drug. The indictment accused Mr. Irizarry of “making money by secretly using his position and special access to information to divert drug revenues from control of the DEA into control of himself and his people. co-conspirators “.

A co-conspirator was identified in the indictment as a public official in Colombia who prosecutors said used the drug money to buy a $ 329,000 Lamborghini Huracán Spyder from a car dealership in Miami.

Mr Irizarry has been accused of using the drug money to buy a Land Rover and a house in Cartagena. Prosecutors said Mr Irizarry admitted he began exploiting his position as a federal agent to enrich himself and his co-conspirators shortly after filing for bankruptcy in 2010.

The indictment described a sprawling scheme in which Mr Irizarry filed false reports on the investigations, causing a ripple effect that caused his colleagues in the Drug Enforcement Administration to falsely document details of wire transfers, hiding unwittingly the source of profits for the drugs he controlled.

Ms Gomez-Irizarry has been accused of running a shell company at the couple’s home in Miramar, Florida, which had no employees and did not sell any merchandise but was used to collect and distribute the money that her husband had collected, according to the indictment.

“Former Special Agent Irizarry abused the trust of the American people when he repeatedly violated his oath as a federal law enforcement officer,” DEA administrator Anne Milgram said Thursday. . “Bringing him to justice reflects the principles of those who faithfully serve and defend the values ​​of the DEA.”

During his conviction in federal court in Tampa, Mr. Irizarry cried and said his greatest punishment was not being able to explain to his two young daughters why he would be gone for so long, The Associated Press reported. He said he was proud when he became a federal agent two decades ago.

“Unfortunately there came a time when I made a decision that went against the person I was, that hurt my wife and embarrassed my country,” Mr. Irizarry said, according to the AP. . ‘t. I have failed.”

Mr Irizarry’s conviction came after another former DEA special agent, Chad Allan Scott, was sentenced in August to more than 13 years in prison after he perjured himself and ordered others to leave. perjury to get a conviction against an accused drug dealer, prosecutors mentioned. Mr Scott also forged forms so he could take possession of a truck that a drug dealer bought for him, prosecutors said.

Mr Irizarry’s lawyer, Maria A. Dominguez, criticized the DEA’s culture for encouraging such crimes.

“Jose was not a leader or the perpetrator of this conduct,” she said in an interview Thursday. “This is behavior he encountered when he first joined the DEA. He was corrupted in this kind of environment, which disturbed his moral compass.”

Upon Mr Irizarry’s conviction, Judge Charlene Honeywell condemned the DEA for its failures and said other agents corrupted by the “lure of easy money” should be investigated, the AP reported.

“It has to stop,” Justice Honeywell said, according to the AP. “You got caught, but it’s obvious to this tribunal that there are others.”

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