DEA agent "conspired with informant from the Colombian cartel to wash more than $ 7 million in illegal drug proceeds & # 39;
An agent of the American federal narcotics known for his expensive tastes and high-profile drug attacks is involved in a million-dollar white-witted conspiracy involving exactly the same cartel criminals as he was in charge of the struggle in Colombia.
Jose Irizarry is once a conspicuous Drug Enforcement Administration agent and is accused of conspiring with an old DEA informant to launder more than $ 7 million of illegal drugs, sometimes via an underground network known as the black-market peso exchange, according to five current and former law enforcement officers.
The officers described the case as one of the biggest black eyes in the history of the DEA, a bureau that has seen scandals repeatedly in recent years, and one that is afraid of undercover operations in the US and South America.
The conspiracy would not only have enriched Irizarry, but is believed to have benefited one of South America's best launderers, who is a relative of Irizarry's Colombian wife, said the officials who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. because they were not authorized to discuss the federal investigation.
The allegations have sent shock waves through the DEA and a new investigation into the field office in Colombia, a critical outpost that has been in turmoil in recent years, has been brought under the spotlight. The division has seen internal struggles and sales in leadership, even though it struggles with record high levels of cocaine production.
Some details came to light in a federal case in Tampa, Florida, where a former DEA informant, Gustavo Yabrudi, a double Venezuelan American citizen, recently pleaded guilty to money laundering. That case refers to an unnamed "co-conspirator" 3 & # 39; – a suspect who is in fact Irizarry, said the five officials.
Jose Irizarry, an agent of the US federal narcotics known for his expensive tastes and high-profile drug attacks, is involved in a $ 2 million whitewashing clunder, involving exactly the same cartel criminals he had accused in Colombia (file photo)
It is unknown where the 44-year-old is living, or that he has been charged with the ongoing criminal probe. Repeated messages looking for comments left on a mobile number that according to the law enforcement officers according to Irizarry has not been returned.
Chad Van Horn, a Miami lawyer who represented Irizarry in a bankruptcy case, said he had no comment and could not offer assistance in trying to reach him. Barry Wax, a Miami attorney who also represented Irizarry, has not returned any phone calls and e-mails looking for comments.
A spokeswoman for the DEA said that Irizarry resigned from the office after being recalled from Colombia to Washington in 2017, but declined to comment further.
When the scandal reached Washington that year, the FBI and the Department of Justice sent investigators to Colombia to conduct criminal and internal investigations, fearing that this would maintain the ability of the DEA to maintain the trust of sources in the criminal underworld. can damage it. said.
The case raises new questions about the DEA screening practices when hiring special agents. Irizarry was hired by the DEA, despite indications that he was showing signs of deception in a polygraphic exam that he admitted, three of the law enforcement officers said.
There were other red flags. In 2010 Irizarry declared bankruptcy with debts of almost $ 500,000, but he was nevertheless allowed to handle financial transactions in his role with the DEA.
Before being unmasked, Irizarry had been a model agent, the law enforcement officers said, receiving praise from his supervisors. From Miami, he received special permission to set up an undercover operation to send money and send contraband to Colombia on behalf of suspected drug traffickers using front companies, shell bank accounts and couriers.
His investigations led to dozens of drug arrests, so he was transferred to a much-coveted foreign post in the Colombian resort of Cartagena in an early career, where his successes were continued.
"He was the superstar that everyone wanted to be", said a former law enforcement officer.
The accusations have sent shock waves through the DEA and brought a new investigation into the field office in Colombia (above in a file photo), a critical outpost that has been in turmoil in recent years. The division has seen internal struggles and sales in leadership, even though it struggles with record high levels of cocaine production
But without the knowledge of his bosses, Irizarry and Yabrudi, his old informant, reportedly opened a bank account on which they closed deposits from a growing network of criminal contacts to Cypriot repatriating drug revenues, the officials said.
Sometimes the money was used to buy electronics, textiles and other goods that were exported to Colombia for resale in pesos, which were used to pay merchants.
Prosecutors claim that $ 7 million went through a single account for almost six years. Yabrudi, found guilty, admitted that he had withdrawn money from the account and made payments to his unnamed DEA co-conspirator – Irizarry, said the officials – and accounts he controlled.
& # 39; None of these deposits, nor the use of the funds that followed, were officially sanctioned DEA operations, & # 39; wrote prosecutors in court.
They said that Yabrudi knew that the funds were illicit drug proceeds and that his co-conspirator was outside the scope of his authority & # 39; had been a DEA agent.
Yabrudi's lawyer, Leonardo Concepcion, declined to comment on the case, but described it as a case of "serious corruption by a DEA agent."
Sometimes Irizarry DEA made confiscations or letters from banks to collect some of the money, according to law enforcement officials. Given the huge amounts of daily laundered, unsuspecting criminal customers have incurred losses with a cat and mouse game with the FBI.
Some details came to light in a federal case in Tampa, Florida, in which a former DEA informant, Gustavo Yabrudi (above), a double Venezuelan American citizen, recently pleaded guilty to money laundering.
Irizarry also accepted the showy taste of the drug traffickers he had charged with addressing. Unlike most agents who earn a government salary on temporary assignment, Irizarry bought a house and Land Rover in Cartagena. He traveled first class to Europe with Louis Vuitton suitcases and a golden Hublot watch, an official said.
He organized raw hunting parties with prostitutes dressed in bikini, which co-agents and at least one supervisor participated in the DEA policy, according to an official who went to such a party. The DEA forbade such meetings in the wake of the scandal of the & sex parties & # 39; in 2015 in Colombia that caused the retirement of the DEA administrator at that time.
Researchers are also investigating whether Irizarry's marriage in the Mafia caused his off-the-board arrest and seizure numbers, according to law enforcement officials. His second wife, Nathalia Gomez, is related to Diego Marin, who describes American and Colombian officials as one of the most important money laundering suspects in the country over the past decade.
Authorities believe that Marin is the contraband of Colombia and imports shipping containers full of electronics and textiles with drug particles that are eventually sold on flea markets with contraband at a sharp discount.
Marin was arrested in 1993 for allegedly hiding drug money for the Cali cartel in Colombia-bound household appliances. But he was never accused and has since ruled out prosecution through the use of relationships that have been built up for decades as informers to several US law enforcement agencies, the officials said.
Current and former US law enforcement officers now suspect that Irizarry used his insignia to hand in Marin's rivals.
Calls and text messages sent to Irizarry's wife and in search of commentary from Marin, who is her relative, have remained unanswered, as have repeated phone calls and e-mails to David's lawyer, based in Miami, David Macey .
Irizarry's downfall came when he was caught stealing from police informants and mingled in legitimate law enforcement actions. Among the missteps, a $ 87,000 transfer was destined for a trader in Cali who was mysteriously missing.
Irizarry did not know that the trader was an informant for the Miami-Dade laundering strike, who complained to the Ministry of Justice, which led to the arrest of Yabrudi last year.
Around the same time, law enforcement officials, an agent of the Internal Revenue Service who pointed to the DEA, said what he considered a suspicious telephone conversation, Irizarry made an attempt to undo the confiscation of a container of commodities.
Later, according to the officials, it turned out that he had also falsified the DEA paperwork that was used to pay informants – the money for himself.