Top DEA Agent Accused Of Laundering Over $7 Million In Drug Money

By Paul Gaita 01/24/19

The former DEA agent allegedly kept $7 million of money laundered from drug sales in a business account.

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A former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent who oversaw a high-profile undercover operation has been linked to a $7 million money-laundering scheme involving Colombian drug cartels.

Five current and former law enforcement officials told the AP that Jose Irizarry—who left the DEA in 2017—may be the co-conspirator in a recent federal case in which former DEA informant Gustavo Yabrudi pled guilty to laundering money for cartel members as part of an undercover contraband operation.

Yabrudi claimed that he and the co-conspirator kept $7 million of money laundered from drug sales in a business account. Investigators are also investigating Irizarry's second wife, who is related to a top money-laundering suspect in Colombia.

The information about Irizarry came about as part of a plea agreement between the Venezuelan-born Yabrudi and federal prosecutors who were overseeing the case in Atlanta, Georgia.

According to court records, Yabrudi—who worked as an informant for the DEA between 2010 and 2016—and Irizarry allegedly opened a bank account to direct deposits from a network of cartel contacts who sought to filter drug money through a contraband merchandise operation overseen by Irizarry for the DEA.

Irizarry allegedly used a variety of means to launder the money, including shell companies and a variety of goods—including electronics and textiles—which were exported to Colombia for resale in pesos, which were then given to the cartel members. 

According to Yabrudi's plea agreement, the two men opened a secret account through which $7 million in drug cartel funds flowed over a period of six years. Yabrudi admitted that he withdrew money from the account to give to the co-conspirator, who according to the aforementioned officials, was Irizarry.

"None of these deposits, nor the use of the funds that followed were officially sanctioned DEA operations," wrote federal prosecutors in court filings.

The AP noted that Irizarry, who was once a highly regarded agent, had come under scrutiny by DEA officials over a series of questionable decisions and connections. While conducting the undercover contraband operation, Irizarry reportedly bought an expensive home and vehicle, and hosted parties involving sex workers. 

Irizarry's marriage to his second wife, Nathalia Gomez, has also caught the attention of investigators due to her familial relationship with Diego Martin, whom the AP labeled as Colombia's "contraband king." Martin allegedly bought shipping containers filled with goods using drug money. Martin has remained out of the law's grasp by serving as an informant for various U.S. law enforcement entities.

The current whereabouts of Irizarry, who resigned from the DEA in 2017 after being recalled to Washington, D.C., are unknown. The AP noted that calls to a cell phone which officials said belonged to him went unreturned, as did calls to Gomez. It is also unknown if Irizarry has been charged in regard to the allegations.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.