Former DEA agent sentenced to 135 months for taking bribes

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A former Drug Enforcement Administration agent who admitted to taking thousands of dollars in bribes from a drug trafficker was sentenced Wednesday to more than 11 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Brian Miller sentenced Nathan Koen, who pleaded guilty last year to one count of bribery, to 135 months in prison and two years of supervised release.

“This defendant’s actions are a disgrace to the thousands of dedicated law enforcement officers who work with integrity every day to protect and serve our communities,” U.S. Attorney Jonathan D. Ross said in a statement after the hearing.

Federal prosecutors said that Koen, who began working for the DEA in 2002, accepted the bribes in exchange for providing sensitive information that allowed the drug trafficker to avoid detection by law enforcement and run his drug organization. The FBI in 2018 began investigating Koen, who had transferred from Jacksonville, Florida to Little Rock, Arkansas, in 2016.

“Today’s sentencing reflects DEA’s commitment to hold accountable any DEA employee who abuses the trust of the American people by violating their oath as a federal law enforcement officer,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in a statement released by prosecutors. “Nathan Koen put himself ahead of the principles he swore to protect. I commend our federal law enforcement partners who investigated this case and the U.S. Attorneys who prosecuted it.”

The drug trafficker had paid $31,500 to Koen before he began cooperating with the FBI, prosecutors said. Koen was arrested after prosecutors said the FBI recorded him accepting a $9,000 bribe from the trafficker inside a Las Vegas casino.

Blake Hendrix, an attorney for Koen, said he planned to appeal the sentence.

Koen’s sentencing follows a number of embarrassing cases of serious misconduct in recent years that have rocked the U.S.’ premier narcotics law enforcement agency.

Jose Irizarry, a once standout agent in Colombia and Miami, was sentenced in December to more than 12 years in federal prison after adopting the lavish lifestyle of the criminal informants he was supposed to be supervising but instead helped launder money from undercover operations. Prior to being locked away, Irizarry lashed out against his fellow agents, blaming the DEA for fostering a culture of corruption and gift taking that he said desensitized him to the implications of violating the law.

Irizarry’s accusations, some of which were detailed in a scathing Inspector General report, prompted the DEA’s new administrator, Ann Milgram, to order an outside review of the agency’s foreign operations, which is ongoing.

Another longtime agent, Chad Scott, was also sentenced last year to more than 13 years behind bars for stealing money from suspects, falsifying government records and committing perjury. A federal narcotics agent in Chicago also pleaded guilty to supplying firearms to a drug trafficker known for slaughtering his rivals, while a Colombian police captain who headed a vetted unit that works closely with the DEA was charged with selling evidence and information to key targets of U.S. investigations.

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