DEA’s most corrupt agent: Events, intercourse amid ‘unwinnable struggle’

José Irizarry accepts that he’s often called probably the most corrupt agent in U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration historical past, admitting he “grew to become one other man” in conspiring with Colombian cartels to construct a lavish way of life of costly sports activities vehicles, Tiffany jewels and paramours around the globe.

However as he used his remaining hours of freedom to inform his story to the Related Press, Irizarry says he gained’t go down for this alone, accusing some long-trusted DEA colleagues of becoming a member of him in skimming tens of millions of {dollars} from drug cash laundering stings to fund a decade’s price of luxurious abroad journey, nice eating, prime seats at sporting occasions and frat house-style debauchery.

The best way Irizarry tells it, dozens of different federal brokers, prosecutors, informants and in some circumstances cartel smugglers themselves have been all in on the three-continent joyride often called “Workforce America” that selected cities for cash laundering pickups largely for occasion functions or to coincide with Actual Madrid soccer video games or Rafael Nadal tennis matches. That included stops alongside the best way in VIP rooms of Caribbean strip joints, Amsterdam’s purple gentle district and aboard a Colombian yacht that launched with loads of booze and greater than a dozen prostitutes.

“We had free entry to do no matter we wished,” the 48-year-old Irizarry advised the AP in a sequence of interviews earlier than starting a 12-year federal prison sentence. “We’d generate cash pickups in locations we wished to go. And as soon as we received there it was about ingesting and women.”

All this revelry was rooted, Irizarry stated, in a crushing realization amongst DEA brokers around the globe that there’s nothing they will do to make a dent within the drug struggle anyway. Solely nominal effort was given to really constructing circumstances or stemming a report stream of unlawful cocaine and opioids into america that has pushed greater than 100,000 drug overdose deaths a year.

“You may’t win an unwinnable struggle,” he stated. “The drug struggle is a sport. … It was a really enjoyable sport that we have been taking part in.”

Irizarry’s story, which some former colleagues have attacked as a fictionalized try to scale back his sentence, got here in days of contrite, bitter, typically tearful interviews with the AP within the historic quarter of his native San Juan. It was a lot the identical account he gave the FBI in prolonged debriefings and sealed court docket papers obtained by the AP after he pleaded guilty in 2020 to 19 corruption counts.

However after years of portraying Irizarry as a rogue agent who acted alone, U.S. Justice Division investigators have in current months begun intently following his confessional highway map, questioning as many as two dozen present and former DEA brokers and prosecutors accused of turning a blind eye to his flagrant abuses and typically becoming a member of in.

The once-standout agent has accused some former colleagues within the DEA’s Miami-based Group 4 of lining their pockets and falsifying information to replenish a slush fund used for overseas jaunts over the higher a part of a decade, till his resignation in 2018.

“The indictment paints an image of me, the corrupt agent that did this complete scheme. However it doesn’t discuss the remainder of DEA. I wasn’t the mastermind,” Irizarry stated.

The Justice Division declined to remark. A DEA spokesperson stated: “José Irizarry is a prison who violated his oath as a federal regulation enforcement officer and violated the belief of the American individuals.”

The AP was in a position to corroborate some, however not all, of Irizarry’s accusations by means of 1000’s of confidential regulation enforcement information and dozens of interviews with these aware of his claims and the continued prison investigation.

The probe is targeted partly on George Zoumberos, certainly one of Irizarry’s former companions who traveled abroad extensively for cash laundering investigations. Irizarry advised the AP that Zoumberos loved unfettered entry to so-called fee funds and improperly tapped that cash for private purchases and unwarranted journeys.

Authorities are so targeted on Zoumberos that in addition they subpoenaed his brother, a Florida wedding ceremony photographer who traveled with DEA brokers, and even granted him immunity to induce him to cooperate. However Michael Zoumberos additionally refused to testify and has been jailed exterior Tampa since March on a cost of civil contempt — an exceedingly uncommon stress tactic that underscores the rising temperature of the investigation.

Some present and former DEA brokers say Irizarry’s claims are overblown or flat-out fabrications. The lawyer for the Zoumberos brothers says prosecutors are on a “fishing expedition” to carry extra indictments due to the embarrassment of the Irizarry scandal.

“They’re seeking to discover a crime to suit this case versus a criminal offense that really happened,” stated lawyer Raymond Mansolillo.

Irizarry parlayed his data of the black market peso alternate into a lifetime of luxurious that prosecutors say was bankrolled by $9 million he and his Colombian co-conspirators diverted from cash laundering investigations.

Irizarry’s spending habits rapidly started to imitate the ostentatious tastes of the narcos he was tasked with focusing on, with spoils together with a $30,000 Tiffany diamond ring for his spouse, luxurious sports activities vehicles and a $767,000 dwelling within the Colombian resort metropolis of Cartagena.

“I received caught up within the way of life,” he stated. “I received caught up with the informants and partying.”

Since his arrest, Irizarry has written a self-published e-book titled “Getting Again on Monitor,” a part of his try and come clean with his errors, he says, and his spouse has advised him she is looking for a divorce.

Including to Irizarry’s despair, he says, is that he’s nonetheless the one one to pay such a heavy value for a sample of misconduct that he says the DEA allowed to proceed. To this point, prosecutors have but to cost some other brokers, and several other former colleagues have quietly retired reasonably than endure the shame of probably being fired.

“I’ve advised them all the pieces I do know,” Irizarry stated. “All they need to do is dig.”

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