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Ex-DEA agent, wife, to leave Puerto Rico, face trial in US

FILE - (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP, File)
FILE - (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP, File)

SAN JUAN – A former anti-drug agent and his wife, charged with diverting money from the Drug Enforcement Administration and aiding Colombian traffickers, on Wednesday agreed to have their case held in the U.S. mainland.

José Irizarry clasped the leg of Nathalia Gómez-Irizarry as the couple sat quietly in Puerto Rico's federal court for an hour before the hearing, barely talking. They face a 19-count federal indictment in which Irizarry is accused of conspiring to launder millions in drug proceeds diverted from the DEA.

He joined the agency in Miami in 2009 and repeatedly won praise from superiors. He resigned in January 2018 after being transferred from Colombia to Washington.

The couple declined to speak and left the federal courtroom after the hearing.

“They are covered by the presumption of innocence,” defense attorney José Novas told The Associated Press, declining further comment.

The couple were arrested in Puerto Rico last week and released on $10,000 bond each. They are now scheduled to appear in court in Florida next month in a case whose star witness is a former DEA informant.

Irizarry is accused of filing false reports starting around 2011 and allegedly ordered DEA staff to wire money slated for undercover stings to international accounts he controlled.

Authorities also accused him of sharing sensitive law enforcement information with co-conspirators, including a Colombian public official and an alleged drug trafficker and money launderer who is godfather to the couple’s children.

Some of the money allegedly was used to buy a $30,000 Tiffany diamond ring, a 2017 Lamborghini Huracan Spyder and a home in Puerto Rico, where the couple had been living.