Best of AP — Honorable Mention


Like an episode of ‘Narcos’: Rogue DEA agent in Colombia conspires to steal millions

The AP of the biggest scandal in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s recent history started with a late afternoon phone call from a longtime law enforcement source to Bogota, Colombia-based Andean News Director Joshua Goodman pointing him to a months-old court filing with redacted names. “That’s your story,” he said. “Consider it your early Christmas gift.” Within a few hours Goodman was on a flight to Miami, having arranged to meet another source he had been working unsuccessfully for months. The source spilled the beans on a story that seemed straight out of the next season of “Narcos”: a rogue agent, Jose Irizarry, who married into the mafia, joined the DEA and proceeded to go undetected even as he stole $7 million in cahoots with his wife’s relative, Colombia’s top money launderer.

Work on the story began months earlier when Goodman and New York legal affairs reporter Jim Mustian, in the course of another exclusive on alleged misconduct by the DEA chief in Colombia, caught wind of Irizarry’s brazen crimes. While Goodman was pressing the flesh in Miami, Mustian was collecting grist from his extensive DEA contacts and connecting the dots by digging up unnoticed court filings in a related case that showed how DEA turned a blind eye to abuse in what are supposed to be tightly-controlled covert money-laundering operations.

The story was the second-most read on the APNews app on a Trump-dominated news day, and on the second day was still garnering 35,000 readers. In Colombia, it was front-page news and spurred a police investigation into the rogue agent’s Colombian wife. The NY Post, Daily Beast and The Hill ran stories that credited the AP’s reporting. The administrator of the DEA reacted angrily in Washington, according to a source in the room, and summoned his top lieutenants for a meeting to discuss the potential leaks that led to the story.

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