Former Homeland Security agent pleads guilty in drug money theft

A former Homeland Security Investigations agent accused of pulling over drug money smuggling suspects and stealing the dirty cash has pleaded guilty to 17 charges in the wide-ranging investigation.

The change of plea, entered April 29, comes a week before Tyrone Cedric Duren was set to begin trial in San Diego federal court.

Duren, who started his law enforcement career as a California Highway Patrol officer, switched to HSI, where he was assigned to a squad that investigated the smuggling of drug proceeds into Mexico.

Beginning in 2010, Duren said he stopped bulk cash smugglers and seized the drug proceeds for himself, according to the plea agreement.

"I committed these offenses because I was experiencing financial pressures from the severe downturn in the real estate market and because my salary decreased substantially from when I was a member of the California Highway Patrol to when I transferred to HSI," he admitted, according to court records.

The investigation kicked off in 2013 when authorities received a complaint from a Mexican citizen that Duren had stolen $440,000 from him during an off-the-books traffic stop on Interstate 805, according to court records.

Duren, who lived in Bonsall at the time, said he hid the stolen money by depositing the cash in amounts under $10,000 at banks, so as not to trigger a mandatory report by the banks. He also paid for large expenditures in cash and hoarded money at his home.

Prosecutors had previously detailed where they suspected the money went: toward real estate investments and lavish vacations. Evidence shows he and his wife also opened bank accounts in Croatia.

Duren also pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators when asked about the allegations, as well as tax evasion.

His wife, Jennifer, pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

Duren, who at one time owned about 30 properties in Philadelphia, came under scrutiny last year when one of his rowhomes caught fire, killing four people, including a child. The home had been rented out illegally as a boarding house, city officials said.

Duren has not been charged criminally as a result of the fire and has since sold many of the properties, according to officials.

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