Former DEA Agent and His Wife Plead Guilty for Roles in Scheme to Divert Drug Proceeds From Undercover Money Laundering Investigations

A former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agent and his wife pleaded guilty Monday to all charges in a 19-count indictment unsealed against them on Feb. 21, 2020.  U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Wilson accepted the guilty pleas in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.  

Jose Ismael Irizarry, 46, and his wife, Nathalia Gomez-Irizarry, 36, admitted to participating in a seven-year scheme to divert over $9 million in drug proceeds from undercover money laundering investigations into bank accounts that they and co-conspirators controlled.  Irizarry and Gomez-Irizarry are scheduled to be sentenced at a later date.

“In a shocking breach of the public’s trust, former DEA Special Agent Jose Irizarry, together with his wife, Nathalia Gomez-Irizarry, abused his position by illegally diverting millions of dollars in drug proceeds from undercover operations to personally benefit themselves,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.  “Sworn law enforcement agents are entrusted with great responsibility, and the department will hold accountable those who exploit their positions to profit from public corruption.”

“Irizarry joined forces with the same criminal drug organizations he promised to investigate and prosecute, “said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak for the Northern District of Georgia.  “He and his wife now stand as convicted felons, potentially facing years in federal prison with little to show for the betrayal of his oath to uphold the law.”

“This former federal agent turned his back on the people he swore to protect and caved to greed and deceit,” said Special Agent in Charge Michael F. McPherson of the FBI’s Tampa Field Office.  “The FBI will not tolerate those who abuse the public trust and will persist in safeguarding the American people from public corruption.”  

“HSI is committed to maintaining the public’s confidence in our law enforcement community by rooting out those corrupt individuals and criminal organizations who abuse the U.S. financial system for their own personal gain,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Kevin Sibley of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tampa Field Office.  “By working in partnership with federal, state, local and international partners, this investigation is a prime example of law enforcement agencies working collaboratively in pursuit of justice.”  

“Rather than upholding his oath to stop drug trafficking and money laundering, Irizarry actively participated in these schemes and collected millions of dollars for himself and his associates,” said Special Agent in Charge James F. Boyersmith of the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Miami Field Office.  “Irizarry’s conduct enabled criminals, endangered the public, and jeopardized public trust in law enforcement.”

“DEA worked with the FBI, the U.S. Attorney, and others in law enforcement to investigate and bring Irizarry to justice,” said DEA Acting Administrator Timothy J. Shea.  “Law enforcement, at any level, is based upon integrity and public trust.  DEA employees work tirelessly every day to keep our communities safe from drug-related crime, and former DEA Special Agent Jose Irizarry’s criminal actions do not reflect the high standards of conduct we demand of our employees and our agents.  Corruption and betrayal of the American people – the very people we stand to protect – have no place at DEA, and neither does Mr. Irizarry.”

“It’s never pleasant to employ our unique financial investigative skills against a member of the law enforcement community, but no one dislikes a bad cop more than a good cop,” said Special Agent in Charge Brian Payne of the IRS Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Tampa Field Office.  “Thankfully, the vast majority of federal, state, and local law enforcement officers vigilantly honor the badge, and we take great pride in teaming up with them.  Together with our federal partners, we worked tirelessly to uncover the disgrace this particular agent attempted to bring on our profession.”

Irizarry filed for personal bankruptcy protection in December of 2010.  As part of his plea, he admitted that soon after his bankruptcy was filed he began to exploit his position of public trust as a special agent to divert funds from undercover DEA money laundering investigations to himself and to co-conspirators.  Diverted funds were then used to purchase jewelry, luxury cars, and a home.  The scheme lasted throughout Irizarry’s assignments to the DEA’s Miami Field Division and to its office in Cartagena, Colombia.  Irizarry resigned from the DEA in January of 2018. 

Irizarry further admitted that he and his criminal associates opened a bank account with a stolen identity and then utilized the account to secretly send and receive drug proceeds from active DEA investigations.  Gomez-Irizarry admitted that she allowed her bank accounts and a Florida corporation in her name to be used in the scheme.  By his own admission, Irizarry was in personal bankruptcy proceedings for nearly the duration of his criminal conduct and failed to disclose any of his illicit income to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Irizarry 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.

Trial Attorneys Joseph Palazzo and Mark A. Irish of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine of the Northern District of Georgia, are prosecuting the case.

The FBI, HSI, Justice Department’s OIG, DEA, and IRS-CI investigated the case with significant contributions from former Assistant U.S. Attorney James Mandolfo and investigators William Campbell and Paul Serletti.  The U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section’s Judicial Attaché’s Office in Bogota, Colombia, the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the District of Puerto Rico, Southern District of New York, and the Eastern District of Texas, the Colombian Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalia General de la Nacion), the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, and the South Florida Money Laundering Strike Force at the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office provided valuable assistance.

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    The Department of Justice announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against Village Realty of Staten Island Ltd. and Denis Donovan, a sales and former rental agent at Village Realty, alleging discrimination against African Americans in violation of the Fair Housing Act when offering housing units for rent. The lawsuit is based on the results of testing conducted by the department’s Fair Housing Testing Program, in which individuals pose as renters to gather information about possible discriminatory practices. 
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  • DRL FY2020: Guaranteeing Constitutional Rights in Tunisia
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
    Bureau of Democracy, [Read More…]
  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo at the IISS Manama Dialogue
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Guild Mortgage Company to Pay $24.9 Million to Resolve Allegations it Knowingly Caused False Claims for Federal Mortgage insurance
    In Crime News
    Guild Mortgage Company has agreed to pay the United States $24.9 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by knowingly breaching material program requirements when it originated and underwrote mortgages insured by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the Department of Justice announced today.  Guild Mortgage Company is headquartered in San Diego, California, with branches across the United States.
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  • Statement from Attorney General William P. Barr on the Arrest of Kansas City Man Charged with the Murder of Four-Year-Old LeGend Taliferro
    In Crime News
    Attorney General William P. Barr issued the following statement in response to the arrest of a Kansas City man accused of murdering four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, after whom the Department of Justice’s Operation Legend is named.
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  • NASA’s Perseverance Rover Spacecraft Put in Launch Configuration
    In Space
    Stacking spacecraft [Read More…]
  • Joint Statement of the 47th U.S.-Israel Joint Political-Military Group
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • GAO Audits Involving DOD: Status of Efforts to Schedule and Hold Timely Entrance Conferences
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO began 37 new audits that involved the Department of Defense (DOD) in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020. Of GAO's 37 requested entrance conferences for those audits, DOD scheduled 33 within 14 days and held 34 within 30 days of GAO's notification. Entrance conferences are initial meetings between agency officials and GAO staff that allow GAO to communicate its audit objectives and enable agencies to assign key personnel to support the audit work. The four entrance conferences that were scheduled more than 14 days after notification were scheduled late due to either difficulties in identifying a primary action officer or aligning the schedules of GAO and DOD officials. The three entrance conferences that were held more than 30 days after notification were scheduled late due to difficulties in aligning the schedules of GAO and DOD officials. GAO's agency protocols govern GAO's relationships with audited agencies. These protocols assist GAO in scheduling entrance conferences with key agency officials within 14 days of their receiving notice of a new audit. The ability of the Congress to conduct effective oversight of federal agencies is enhanced through the timely completion of GAO audits. In past years, DOD experienced difficulty meeting the protocol target for the timely facilitation of entrance conferences. In Senate Report 116-48 accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, the Senate Armed Services Committee included a provision for GAO to review DOD's scheduling and holding of entrance conferences. In this report, GAO evaluates the extent to which DOD scheduled entrance conferences within 14 days of receiving notice of a new audit, consistent with GAO's agency protocols, and held those conferences within 30 days. This is the final of four quarterly reports that GAO will produce on this topic for fiscal year 2020. In the first three quarterly reports, GAO found that DOD had improved its ability to meet the protocol target. GAO analyzed data on GAO audits involving DOD and initiated in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020 (July 1, 2020, through September 30, 2020). Specifically, GAO identified the number of notification letters requesting entrance conferences that it sent to DOD during that time period. GAO determined the number of days between when DOD received GAO's notification letter for each new audit and when DOD scheduled the entrance conference and assessed whether DOD scheduled entrance conferences within 14 days of notification, which is the time frame identified in GAO's agency protocols. GAO also determined the date that each requested entrance conference was held by collecting this information from the GAO team conducting each audit and assessed whether DOD held entrance conferences for new audits within 30 days of notification, which was the time frame identified in the mandate for this review. For more information, contact Elizabeth Field at (202) 512-2775 or Fielde1@gao.gov.
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  • International Law Enforcement Operation Targeting Opioid Traffickers on the Darknet Results in over 170 Arrests Worldwide and the Seizure of Weapons, Drugs and over $6.5 Million
    In Crime News
    Today, the Department of Justice, through the Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement (JCODE) team joined Europol to announce the results of Operation DisrupTor, a coordinated international effort to disrupt opioid trafficking on the Darknet. The operation, which was conducted across the United States and Europe, demonstrates the continued partnership between JCODE and Europol against the illegal sale of drugs and other illicit goods and services. Operation DisrupTor builds on the success of last year’s Operation SaboTor and the coordinated law enforcement takedown of the Wall Street Market, one of the largest illegal online markets on the dark web.
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