NEW YORK -- A Drug Enforcement Administration agent must remain behind bars while awaiting trial on charges that he joined the agency to benefit a violent drug organization, a judge decided Monday.
U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman called the allegations by prosecutors that Fernando Gomez served as a double agent to help drug dealers "quite inflammatory and extraordinary."
He said a Chicago magistrate judge who concluded Gomez could await trial at home on electronic monitoring had not been told specifics by prosecutors about the evidence against the 41-year-old Chicago resident.
Furman, who will preside over the trial in September, said the evidence seemed strong and the probability of conviction was high.
"His ability to live a double life — if the allegations are true — it certainly raises in my mind a fairly extraordinary level of deviousness," Furman said.
Gomez was arrested Dec. 11 at his Chicago office on narcotics conspiracy and weapons charges. They were added to a 2016 indictment against individuals alleged to be members of La Organizacion de Narcotraficantes Unidos. Prosecutors said the drug organization, blamed in several murders, sent cocaine from Puerto Rico to the Bronx.
They said Gomez conspired from at least 2006 until about 2016 to violate narcotics laws by distributing cocaine. Gomez was working as a detective for the Evanston Police Department in Illinois when he got firearms from drug dealers and gave them to a co-defendant in Puerto Rico, they added.
According to the indictment, Gomez then joined the DEA to help members of the drug conspiracy evade prosecution by law enforcement.
Gomez, handcuffed and shackled, on Monday pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.
His defense attorney, Thomas Durkin, argued for bail, saying his client was not a flight risk and was a law-abiding citizen who served six years in the U.S. Marines.
He said it would be harder to prepare Gomez's defense if he was detained.
"This is a case that is defendable. He should be allowed to defend it," Durkin said.
Durkin said his client knew of the investigation and had plenty of time to flee before he was arrested if he was so inclined.
A prosecutor told the judge that Gomez thought he was above the law and would never be charged.
Durkin said Gomez had a net worth of $80,000 and no splashy purchases that would reflect he was making money on the side by assisting drug dealers.
"Living large? He can barely afford us," the lawyer said.