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U.S. pass judgement on expresses disgust with DEA as she jails corrupt agent

TAMPA, Florida: Jos Irizarry, a once-highly recognized U.S. narcotics agent, has been sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison for conspiring to launder money with a Colombian drug cartel.

While Irizarry admitted to his crimes, he blamed former colleagues at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for fostering a culture of corruption that desensitized him to the implications of violating the law.

“When my client joined the DEA he was schooled in how to be corrupt, he was schooled in how to break the law,” his attorney, Mara Dominguez, said in court. “In this alternate universe it became easier and less suspect to accept money and gifts” from criminal informants who worked with the U.S. narcotics agency.

While handing down her sentence last Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Charlene Honeywell expressed disgust with the DEA for its failings and said other agents corrupted by “the allure of easy money” also needed to be investigated.

“This has to stop,” the judge said. “You were the one who got caught, but it is apparent to this court that there are others.”

Irizarry’s allegations underscore the porous oversight he received during his career, when he was entrusted with the government’s use of front companies, shell bank accounts and couriers to combat international drug trafficking.

They also raise new questions about whether his colleagues in the Miami field office, where Irizarry’s criminal activity began, similarly abused the law.

So far, other than Irizarry’s wife, Nathalia Gomez-Irizarry and a Colombian customs worker, nobody else has been charged in the conspiracy.

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The DEA hired Irizarry, 47, and allowed him to handle sensitive financial transactions, even after he failed a polygraph exam, declared bankruptcy and maintained close ties with a suspected money launderer who would go on to become the godfather of the agent’s twin daughters.

He pleaded guilty last year to 19 federal counts, including bank fraud, admitting he parlayed his expertise in money laundering into a life of luxury.

The spoils included a $30,000 Tiffany diamond ring for his wife, luxury sports cars and a $767,000 home in the Caribbean resort city of Cartagena – on top of residences in south Florida and Puerto Rico.

At Thursday’s sentencing, Irizarry broke down in tears as he addressed the court, saying the harshest punishment was not being able to explain two his two young daughters why he would be going away for so long. He said when he became a federal law enforcement agent two decades ago he did so with a sense of great pride.

“Unfortunately, there came a time when I made a decision that went against the person who I was, that damaged my wife and embarrassed my country,” he said. “I should’ve known better and I didn’t. I failed.”