A once-standout U.S. narcotics agent admitted that he conspired to launder money with the same Colombian cartel he was sworn to fight on Monday, which is undoubtedly considered to be one of the most disgraceful betrayals of the badge in the history of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Jose I. Irizarry, the disgraced agent, pleaded guilty to 19 federal counts, which also included bank fraud and instances of diverting millions of dollars in drug proceeds from DEA control. The prosecution could have had long-lasting implications on its undercover money-laundering operations other than just being an embarrassment for the DEA.
Questions were also raised about the level of supervision that Irizarry received during the term of his career wherein he had been entrusted with the government’s use of front companies, couriers to combat international drug trafficking, and shell bank accounts.
The DEA’s acting administrator, Timothy J. Shea, said that crimes committed by Irizarry do not reflect the high standards of conduct that are demanded by them of their agents and employees. Corruption and betrayal of the very people they stand to protect, the American people, have no place at DEA and there’s no place for criminals like Mr. Irizarry either, said Shea.
As the U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas G. Wilson read the charges, the former agent looked despondently into his hands and told The Associated Press that he is atoning for his sins, after the hearing. He added that he wants to move forward.
Irizarry, 45, had been charged for ordering DEA staff to wire money slated for undercover stings to international accounts that were controlled by him and associates and with filing false reports. According to prosecutors, he was also accused of sharing sensitive law enforcement information with co-conspirators, including an alleged drug trafficker, a Colombian public official, and a money launderer. Two unindicted co-conspirators were enriched in this conspiracy other than Irizarry, however, they were not named in the indictment.