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Former DEA Special Agent Sentenced to More Than 12 Years in Prison for Laundering Money

By Steve Neavling

A former DEA special agent was sentenced Thursday to more than 12 years in prison for diverting more than $9 million from undercover money-laundering investigations to his own accounts to buy luxury cars, jewelry, and a home.

Jose Ismael Irizarry, 47, of Puerto Rico, pleaded guilty on Sept. 14 to 19 charges as part of a seven-year scheme in which he and his wife used the money to finance a lavish lifestyle. 

“The Department of Justice has zero tolerance for abuse of public office and is committed to ferreting out and prosecuting corruption wherever found, especially among the ranks of law enforcement,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said in a statement.

The money was deposited into bank accounts controlled by Irizarry, and his wife, Nathalia Gomez-Irizarry, and other co-conspirators. They used some of the laundered money to buy a Tiffany diamond ring, a $135,000 Land Rover and a home in Cartagena.

Irizarry, while investigating money laundering by Columbia’s drug cartels, worked with the drug traffickers to launder money seized from drop operations, prosecutors say.

“Public corruption is the FBI’s top criminal investigative priority, and we will not be deterred in our commitment to expose the deceitful even if it means arresting a former federal agent,” Michael McPherson, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Tampa Field Office, said. “The FBI and its federal, state, and local law enforcement partners will remain steadfast and focused on the work to maintain the public’s trust in government.”

Irizarry previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, honest services wire fraud, bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to commit identity theft, and aggravated identity theft. Gomez-Irizarry pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.

“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. “Bringing him to justice reflects the principles of those who faithfully serve and uphold the values of DEA. The men and women of DEA remain committed to protecting our communities and holding all accountable who engage in drug-related crimes. I commend our federal law enforcement partners who investigated this case with utmost professionalism and the prosecutors who worked tirelessly to bring Irizarry to justice.”

Prosecutors say the scheme began after Irizarry filed for bankruptcy in December 2010. At no point in the bankruptcy proceedings did he disclose any of the illicit income to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

“This is an egregious breach of the trust by a federal agent who was sworn to protect and serve the American people,” John Condon, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tampa Field Office, said. “While his actions are uncharacteristic of the dedication and integrity demonstrated by the vast majority of government employees, this case should send a message about the serious consequences facing those who would exploit their positions and violate that special trust.”


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