U.S. Drug Enforcement Agent Charged With Participation in Multi-National Money Laundering Conspiracy

The seal of the Drug Enforcement Administration is seen on a lectern before the start of a press conference at DEA Headquarters on June 26, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty

A former special agent with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration has been arrested for his suspected role in a wide-ranging, multi-national conspiracy to launder drug proceeds.

José Ismael Irizarry, who was employed by the administration from 2009 to 2018, and his wife, Nathalia Gomez-Irizarry, were arrested Friday pursuant to a 19-count indictment outlining the alleged conspiracy.

Both individuals posted a $10,000 bond to be released from detention pending further hearings in the case, according to The Associated Press, which first reported on their arrests and broke news of the alleged conspiracy last year. The arrests occurred in Puerto Rico, where they have a residence.

The pair's lawyer did not return an immediate request for comment. An inquiry to the DEA was referred to the Justice Department, which did not provide comment in time for publication. Irizarry resigned from the DEA in January 2018.

An indictment filed in the case on Friday describes Irizarry's alleged scheme spelled out in 19 charges, including conspiracy to commit money laundering, honest services wire fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.

"Throughout his tenure at DEA, Irizarry engaged in a corrupt scheme in which he worked with confidential informants to investigate the money laundering activity of drug trafficking organizations, while at the same time enriching himself by secretly using his position and his special access to information to divert drug proceeds from DEA control to the control of himself and his co-conspirators," the indictment alleged.

Combined penalties for all of the charges contained in the indictment amount to a potential prison sentence of hundreds of years, should convictions be obtained. However, any potential plea deal would likely eliminate many of the charges, and a prison sentence ultimately imposed would be assisted through federal guidelines, not the statutory maximum.

During his tenure, Irizarry worked out of the DEA's Miami field office, Washington, D.C., bureau, and an official outpost in Cartagena, Colombia.

Prosecutors in Tampa, Florida, believe Irizarry used his position as a DEA special agent to divert drug proceeds recovered by his former agency over a span of years. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were fraudulently diverted during the scheme, according to the indictment.

For example, in 2015, the DEA recovered a bulk cash drop from suspected drug traffickers in the Netherlands worth around 1 million euros. The cash was returned to a DEA account in Florida, at which point Irizarry siphoned off over $140,000 from those funds into the bank account of a private individual, the indictment said.

That money was then used at a Florida car dealership to buy a 2015 Land Rover for Irizarry and the leader of a Colombia-based drug cartel.

Throughout the alleged conspiracy, diverted money was used to purchase jewelry, luxury cars and a home, and was sent as cash gifts for friends and family, prosecutors believe. From 2015 to 2017, hundreds of thousands of dollars flowed through a bank account that purportedly served as a vehicle for the stolen proceeds.