‘Black eye’ for DEA as top former agent is arrested for ‘conspiring with Colombian cartel to divert millions of dollars in drug money which he spent on luxury items
Former DEA agent Jose Irizarry, 46, was arrested alongside his wife, Nathalia, in Puerto Rico on Friday allegedly laundered $7million for Colombian cartel and spent proceeds on super cars, Tiffany jewelry, homes, yacht parties with bikini-clad prostitutes’
Irizarry and his wife, Nathalia Gómez-Irizarry, were taken into custody on Friday at their home near San Juan, Puerto Rico
Former DEA hot shot Irizarry worked with the agency from 2009 until 2018, building a reputation as a topflight agent, at the time fighting a Colombian cartel
Instead, he allegedly undercut his agency’s efforts, colluding with cartel member to divert millions of dollars in drug money away from the DEA which he splashed on a flashy lifestyle
The former agent and his wife, who is related to a top Colombian money-laundering suspect herself, each posted a $10,000 bond following their arrest and they are now out on bail
Former Drug Enforcement Administration agent once considered a top performer now stands accused of laundering more than $7 million for cartel members he was supposed to be investigating in Colombia
A once-standout US federal narcotics agent known for spending lavishly on luxury cars and Tiffany jewelry has been arrested on charges of conspiring to launder money with the same Colombian drug cartel he was supposed to be fighting.
Jose Irizarry and his wife, Nathalia Gómez-Irizarry, were taken into custody on Friday at their home near San Juan, Puerto Rico.
FBI agents arrested Irizarry and his wife Friday in Puerto Rico. They are charged with 19 counts of fraud, conspiracy and identity theft.
Irizarry, 46, has been charged as part of 19-count federal indictment in which he is accused of ‘secretly using his position and his special access to information’ to divert millions in drug proceeds from control of the Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA] .
‘It’s a black eye for the DEA to have one of its own engaged in such a high level of corruption,’ said Mike Vigil, the agency’s former Chief of International Operations.
‘He jeopardized investigations. He jeopardized other agents and he jeopardized informants.’
Agency sources confirmed that Jose Irizarry allegedly conspired with a DEA informant to take money from members of a drug cartel in Colombia.
Details of the case against Irizzary have emerged as Gustavo Yabrudi, the DEA informant, faces a federal case in Florida. Yabrudi himself has already pled guilty to money laundering with assistance from an unnamed co-conspirator, who officials said was Irizarry.
Once regarded as “the superstar everyone wanted to be,” within the ranks of the DEA, Irizarry resigned from the agency after he was recalled from Colombia in 2017.
Officials allege that Irizarry and Yabrudi opened a bank account where they stored money from drug traffickers who sought to send drug proceeds to Colombia.
Yabrudi admitted withdrawing money from one of the accounts, which held more than $7 million, to a DEA agent.
Irizarry when he worked in in Miami, Fla. made a name for himself by arresting a significant number of people accused of drug trafficking. He was then moved to Colombia.
Irizarry is married to Nathalia Gomez, a relative of one Diego Marin, a top Colombian money-laundering suspect. Prosecutors say Irizarry might have worked with Marin, on the scheme.
Investigators are looking into whether Irizarry was seeking to arrest Marin’s criminal rivals using his DEA authority.
One of the unnamed co-conspirators was employed as a Colombian public official while the other was described as the head of a drug trafficking and money laundering organization who became the godfather to the Irizarry couple’s children in 2015, when the agent was stationed in the Colombian city of Cartagena.
Prior to being exposed, Irizarry had been a model agent, winning awards and praise from his supervisors, but after the scale of his alleged corruption and graft was exposed in media reports last year, it sent shockwaves through the DEA, where his ostentatious life style and tales of raucous yacht parties with bikini-clad prostitutes were legendary among agents.
Irizarry was one of the three agents the DEA’s high-profile Bogota office who departed in 2018 amid accusations they passed secrets to drug cartels and used government cash for prostitutes.
Station chief Richard Dobrich, the highest-ranking DEA official in South America, was accused of ordering Colombian drivers working at the US embassy to hire sex workers. Two other agents, Jose Irizarry and Jesse Garcia, are also being investigated also came under scrutiny over misconduct. The accusations leveled at the agents include passing secrets to drug cartels and using government resources to hire prostitutes.
The disgraced agent who joined the DEA in Miami 2009, was entrusted with an undercover money laundering operation using a spiderweb of corporate fronts, shell accounts and couriers. Nine years later his star had dimmed and he resigned under a cloud in January 2018, after being reassigned to Washington when his boss in Colombia became suspicious.
Irizarry is accused of sharing sensitive law enforcement information with his co-conspirators. The case has raised concerns within the DEA that the conspiracy may have compromised undercover operations and upend criminal cases.
‘It could have a ripple effect and cause courts to re-examine any case he was involved in.’
Irizarry and his wife posted $10,000 bond each and were released later Friday.
Defense attorney for the government’s star witness, a former DEA informant who was handled by Irizarry, speaking on behalf of his client said ‘Mr. Yabrudi has been waiting for almost two years for this day,’ said Leonardo Concepcion.
‘It’s time that the puppet masters who pulled
Yabrudi was was handed a 46-month sentence last year for his role in a multi-million-dollar money-laundering conspiracy.his strings and abused their authority over him are made to answer for their actions.’
Starting around 2011, Irizarry allegedly used the cover of his badge to file false reports and mislead his superiors, all while directing DEA personnel to wire funds reserved for undercover stings to accounts in Spain, the Netherlands and elsewhere that he controlled or were tied to his wife and his co-conspirators.
In total, Irizarry and informants under his direction handled at least $3.8 million that should’ve been carefully tracked by the DEA as part of undercover money laundering investigations.
Not all of that amount was pocketed by the co-conspirators, but the indictment details at least $900,000 that was paid out from a single criminal account opened by Irizarry and an informant using the name, passport and social security number of a third person who was unaware their identity was being stolen.
Proceeds from the alleged scheme funded a shocking spending spree on luxury items like a $30,000 Tiffany diamond ring, a BMW, three Land Rovers and a $767,000 home in Cartagena as well as homes in south Florida and Puerto Rico, where the couple has been living.
To hide his tracks, Irizarry allegedly opened a bank account in someone else’s name and used the victim’s forged signature and Social Security number. The scheme also bankrolled the purchase in Miami of a 2017 Lamborghini Huracan Spyder on behalf of a family member of co-conspirator 2.
A red Lamborghini with the same vehicle ID named in the indictment belongs to Jenny Ambuila, who was arrested last year in Colombia along with her father, Omar Ambuila, a customs agent in the port of Buenaventura, a major transit point for cocaine and contraband goods used to conceal the proceeds of narcotics sales.
Before her arrest, Ambuila shared photos and videos of herself on Facebook posing next to the red sports car, which is valued at more than $300,000.
The indictment was handed up a week after another former DEA agent was sentenced to four years in federal prison for his role in a decade long drug conspiracy that involved the smuggling of thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Puerto Rico to New York.