A federal choose Wednesday threatened to throw out the responsible plea of a veteran U.S. narcotics agent who conspired with a Colombian cartel income launderer — an surprising twist that could derail one particular of the most egregious misconduct scenarios in the historical past of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
U.S. District Decide Charlene Edwards Honeywell was expected to sentence the disgraced agent, Jose I. Irizarry, but refused to do so in excess of what she referred to as a “totally unacceptable” lawful dispute.
“I have never ever observed everything like this,” Honeywell claimed, suspending the sentencing indefinitely. “I’m not even positive at this stage I’m heading to acknowledge this plea.”
The heated hearing in Tampa federal courtroom came 9 months just after Irizarry admitted parlaying his skills in money laundering into a existence of luxury that prosecutors said was bankrolled by millions of pounds he diverted from DEA management. The spoils provided a $30,000 Tiffany diamond ring for his wife, luxurious sports activities autos and a $767,000 household in the Caribbean vacation resort town of Cartagena — on top of residences in south Florida and Puerto Rico.
At difficulty is a disagreement in excess of no matter if the dollars Irizarry raided from undercover DEA accounts amounted to a misuse of authorities funds, as Irizarry contends, or the laundering of drug proceeds — a far more major offense that could include a 10 years to what was already envisioned to be a prolonged jail sentence.
Irizarry pleaded guilty last yr to 19 counts, together with conspiracy to commit income laundering and lender fraud, admitting he filed bogus reports and ordered DEA team to wire income slated for undercover stings to intercontinental accounts he and associates controlled.
The case is the hottest black eye for the DEA, which has seen repeated conditions of agent misconduct in current yrs. Just past 7 days, longtime DEA agent Chad Scott was taken into federal custody soon after a jury in New Orleans convicted him of taking property from legal suspects, including to an earlier conviction on corruption prices.
But it truly is unclear what classes the DEA has uncovered from Irizarry’s scheme and whether other brokers assigned to the Miami subject business the place his felony activity commenced were included. His responsible plea also leaves several unanswered questions about the degree of supervision he acquired through his profession, in which he had been entrusted with the government’s use of entrance providers, shell financial institution accounts and couriers to combat international drug trafficking.
Irizarry’s protection lawyer contended in modern court filings that the accounts in question amounted to a revenue-developing “slush fund” for official and individual travel of federal regulation enforcement, U.S. prosecutors and confidential sources.
“They were going to dinners, drinks and carrying out all types of matters with this money,” attorney Humberto Dominguez reported in courtroom Wednesday. “It was all documented.”
The DEA did not respond to a request for remark on that claim.
But prosecutor Joseph Palazzo argued that Irizarry’s actions could only have experienced 1 function regardless of whether the international wire transfers had been channeled by means of DEA-managed accounts.
“Once drug proceeds, constantly drug proceeds,” he mentioned. “The defendant was in a improved position than anyone to know the source of these cash and where these cash were being going.”
The circumstance could also have long-lasting implications on the DEA’s undercover revenue-laundering operations. Irizarry was accused of sharing sensitive regulation enforcement data with co-conspirators, such as a Colombian customs official and an alleged drug trafficker and money launderer.
The Colombian formal, Omar Ambuilla, was arrested in April on a U.S. warrant accusing him of transferring to the U.S. proceeds from the conspiracy for the acquire of a 2017 Lamborghini Huracan Spyder in Florida.
The other alleged co-conspirator has not been identified in court filings apart from as a Colombian citizen who was the goal of a DEA drug trafficking investigation prior to starting to be the godfather to Irizarry’s twin children in 2015.
U.S. law enforcement officials informed The Associated Press final year that the unnamed conspirator is Diego Marin, describing him as Colombia’s contraband king for his position assisting launder drug pounds by the importation of containers full of electronics and other goods. Irizarry and his attorney referred to the alleged co-conspirator in court on Wednesday as a longtime U.S. governing administration informant named “Diego.”
Marin has not been billed. A U.S. lawyer who has represented Marin in the previous declined to comment.
In advance of he resigned in 2018, Irizarry’s ostentatious patterns and tales of raucous yacht functions experienced grow to be legendary among DEA agents. Beginning about 2011, prosecutors reported, Irizarry made use of the protect of his badge to file bogus reports and immediate DEA staff to wire resources reserved for undercover stings to accounts in Spain, the Netherlands and in other places — accounts that he managed or were tied to his spouse and his co-conspirators.
In all, Irizarry and his informants dealt with at minimum $9 million in drug proceeds that should’ve been diligently tracked by the DEA as component of undercover cash laundering investigations, prosecutors said.
The indictment aspects at the very least $900,000 paid out out from a one legal account opened by Irizarry and an informant working with the name, passport and Social Protection range of a 3rd individual who was unaware their id was staying stolen.