The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and federal prosecutors announced on November 26 the arrest of former Honduran congressman Juan Antonio Hernandez Alvarado, aka “Tony Hernandez,” who was charged in Manhattan federal court for drug trafficking, weapons charges, and making false statements to federal agents. Hernandez is the brother of the current president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez.
As stated in the unsealed indictment resulting from DEA’s investigation, from at least in or about 2004, up to and including in or about 2016, multiple drug-trafficking organizations in Honduras and elsewhere worked together, and with support from certain prominent public and private individuals. These included Honduran politicians and law enforcement officials, who received multi-ton loads of cocaine sent to Honduras from, among other places, Colombia via air and maritime routes, in order to transport the drugs westward in Honduras toward the border with Guatemala and eventually to the United States. For protection from official interference, and in order to facilitate the safe passage through Honduras of multi-hundred-kilogram loads of cocaine, drug traffickers paid bribes to public officials, including certain members of the National Congress of Honduras, according to DEA’s investigation.
Other details from the charges state that Hernandez is a former member of the National Congress of Honduras, the brother of the current president of Honduras, and a large-scale drug trafficker who worked with other drug traffickers in, among other places, Colombia, Honduras, and Mexico, to import cocaine into the United States. From at least in or about 2004, up to and including in or about 2016, Hernandez was involved in processing, receiving, transporting, and distributing multi-ton loads of cocaine that arrived in Honduras via planes, go-fast vessels, and, on at least one occasion, a submarine. Hernandez had access to cocaine laboratories in Honduras and Colombia, at which some of the cocaine was stamped with the symbol “TH,” i.e., “Tony Hernandez.” Hernandez also coordinated and, at times, participated in providing heavily armed security for cocaine shipments transported within Honduras, including by members of the Honduran National Police and drug traffickers armed with, among other weapons, machine guns.
As part of his drug-trafficking activities, Hernandez and his co-conspirators bribed law enforcement officials for sensitive information to protect drug shipments and solicited large bribes from major drug traffickers.
In or about February 2014 in Honduras, Hernandez met with Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, the former leader of a violent Honduran drug-trafficking organization known as the Cachiros, for a meeting arranged by, among others, a former member of the Honduran National Police. During video and audio-recorded portions of that meeting, Hernandez agreed to help Rivera Maradiaga by causing Honduran government entities to pay money owed to one or more Cachiros money-laundering front companies in exchange for kickback payments from Rivera Maradiaga. Rivera Maradiaga paid Hernandez approximately $50,000 during the meeting.
Hernandez, 40, is charged with four counts: (1) conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, (2) using and carrying machine guns and destructive devices during, and possessing machine guns and destructive devices in furtherance of, the cocaine-importation conspiracy, (3) conspiring to use and carry machine guns and destructive devices during, and to possess machine guns and destructive devices in furtherance of, the cocaine-importation conspiracy, and (4) making false statements to federal agents. If convicted, Hernandez faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum term of life in prison on count one, a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison and a maximum term of life in prison on count two, a maximum term of life in prison on count three, and a maximum term of five years in prison on count four. The potential mandatory minimum and maximum sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.