'Elaborate Conspiracy' Leads to Arrest of Sheriff's Deputy

Niko Irizarry, 25, accused of arranging to plant drugs in real estate broker's car in Florida
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 16, 2022 9:15 AM CST
Sheriff's Deputy Arrested in Alleged Drug Frame-Up
From left, Charles Custodio, Niko Irizarry, and Scott Snider.   (Lee County Sheriff's Office, via WINK)

(Newser) – A young Florida law enforcement officer is out of a job, and facing charges, after an alleged scheme involving sex, drugs, and a promised trip to Europe was busted wide open. Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said at a Friday presser that 25-year-old Niko Irizarry, a now-former deputy with his team, was fired and arrested Friday, all stemming from an incident in which Irizarry allegedly worked with two other men to frame an innocent real estate broker, reports NBC News. Per a review by the Washington Post of the records in the case, investigators say 36-year-old Charles Custodio wanted to take revenge on the broker for the latter's role in sending Custodio to prison in an unrelated case. And so Custodio recruited Scott Snider, 29, to pretend he was looking to buy some property and arrange to meet the broker on Dec. 15, a briefcase filled with drugs in hand, investigators say.

They note that when Snider and the man met in a local parking lot, Snider somehow slipped the briefcase into the broker's car. In the meantime, Custodio had texted Irizarry to arrange for the deputy to pull over the broker the next day, promising Irizarry "sexual favors and to take him to dinner in Paris for helping him," according to Irizarry's arrest warrant. Irizarry did just that on Dec. 16, per the warrant, "finding" the briefcase filled with more than 50 bags of meth, Xanax, ecstasy, amphetamine pills, Oxy, and fentanyl. The broker was arrested, but Marceno said Friday the Lee County Sheriff's Office's internal affairs unit got a tip last month that something wasn't right about the arrest, and an investigation was launched, uncovering the "elaborate conspiracy."

Irizarry is now facing a felony charge of official misconduct, while Custodio and Snider were charged with trafficking in fentanyl, possession of a controlled substance, and conspiracy. "Nobody is above the law, and that includes our deputies," Marceno said Friday. "Those who engaged in this disgusting conduct are now in jail where they belong." He noted that Irizarry, who'd first joined the Lee County Sheriff's Office in 2018, didn't have any past disciplinary matters on his record with them, per NBC. Irizarry and Custodio appeared in court Saturday and had their bonds set at $5,000 and $55,000, respectively, reports WINK. They're set to head back to court in mid-March. It's not clear when Snider is set to appear in court. (Read more deputy stories.)

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