And, oh yeah… his second wife, Nathalia Gomez, is related to Diego Marin, who officials describe as one of the top mafia money-laundering suspects in the country over the past 10 years.
And, the agent was known for expensive tastes and high-profile drug seizures. But, unlike other government salary agents, he had a home and Land Rover in Cartagena, and traveled first-class to Europe sporting Louis Vuitton luggage and a gold Hublot watch, according to one official.
Irizarry is accused of “conspiring with a longtime DEA informant to launder more than $7 million in illicit drug proceeds, sometimes using an underground network known as the black-market peso exchange, according to five current and former law enforcement officials.”
“The officials described the case as one of the biggest black eyes in the history of the DEA, an agency that has seen repeated scandals in recent years, and one they fear could have compromised undercover operations in the U.S. and South America.”
The scam benefited Irizarry and allegedly Diego Marin, but officials were not authorized to confirm the details or discuss the current federal investigation.
The allegations have drawn new scrutiny to the agency’s Colombia field office, a critical outpost that has been plagued by scandals in recent years.
AP reported, “Some of the details emerged in a federal case in Tampa, Florida, in which a former DEA informant, Gustavo Yabrudi, a dual Venezuelan-American citizen, recently pleaded guilty to money laundering. That case refers to an unnamed ‘co-conspirator 3’ — a suspect who is in fact Irizarry, the five officials said.
“It is unknown where the 44-year-old Irizarry is living, or whether he has been charged in the ongoing criminal probe. Repeated messages seeking comment left on a cellphone number the law enforcement officials said belongs to Irizarry were not returned.
“A DEA spokeswoman said Irizarry resigned from the agency after he was recalled from Colombia to Washington in 2017 but declined further comment.
“When word of the scandal reached Washington that year, the FBI and Justice Department dispatched investigators to Colombia to conduct criminal and internal inquiries, fearing that it could backfire on the DEA’s ability to keep the trust of sources in the criminal underworld, the law enforcement officials said.”
Moreover, the case raises serious questions about the DEA’s screening practice for agents. “Irizarry was hired by the DEA despite indications he showed signs of deception in a polygraph exam he took upon admission, three of the law enforcement officials said.”
Plus, in 2010, “Irizarry declared bankruptcy with debts of almost $500,000, but he was nevertheless permitted to handle financial transactions in his role at the DEA.”
Before he was exposed, Irizarry earned high praise for his activities. “Based out of Miami, he won special permission to set up an undercover operation to send money and ship contraband merchandise to Colombia on behalf of suspected drug traffickers using front companies, shell bank accounts and couriers.”
With scores of drug arrests, he earned an early-career transfer to the Colombian resort city of Cartagena.
“He was the superstar everyone wanted to be,” one former law enforcement official said.
“But unbeknownst to his bosses, Irizarry and Yabrudi, his long-time informant, allegedly opened a bank account where they directed deposits from a growing network of criminal contacts looking to repatriate drug proceeds to Colombia, the officials said. Sometimes the funds were used to purchase electronics, textiles and other goods that were exported to Colombia for resale in pesos, which were used to pay the traffickers.
“Prosecutors allege that $7 million flowed through a single account over almost six years. Yabrudi, in pleading guilty, admitted he withdrew cash from the account and gave payments to his unnamed DEA co-conspirator — Irizarry, the officials said — and accounts he controlled.”
“None of these deposits, nor the use of the funds that followed, were officially sanctioned DEA operations,” prosecutors wrote in court filings. Likewise, he apparently fabricated DEA seizure orders and pocketed some of that money.
Authorities believe Marin is Colombia’s contraband king. He was arrested in 1993 for allegedly hiding dope money for the Cali cartel, but was never charged and has “eluded prosecution ever since by leveraging relationships built over decades as an informant to multiple U.S. law enforcement agencies, the officials said.”
“Current and former U.S. law enforcement officials now suspect Irizarry was using his badge to turn in Marin’s rivals.”
“Irizarry’s undoing came when he was caught stealing from police informants and interfering in legitimate law-enforcement actions. Among the missteps was an $87,000 wire transfer destined for a trafficker in Cali that mysteriously went missing. Irizarry didn’t know the trafficker was an informant for the Miami-Dade money-laundering strike force, which complained to the Justice Department, leading to Yabrudi’s arrest last year.
“Around the same time, the law enforcement officials said, an Internal Revenue Service agent flagged to the DEA what he considered a suspicious phone call Irizarry made trying to reverse the seizure of a container of commercial goods. Later, the officials said, it was learned that he had also been falsifying DEA paperwork used to pay informants — pocketing the money for himself.”
That such actions took place for so long under Obama’s rule is being ignored.