A Honduran woman was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a large-scale conspiracy to traffic cocaine for importation into the United States.
According to court documents, from 2006 until 2015, Erlinda Ramos-Bobadilla, aka Chinda, 62, served as a leader in the Montes-Bobadilla drug-trafficking organization, or Los Montes, one of the most significant drug-trafficking organizations operating in Honduras. The Los Montes drug-trafficking organization was based in the town of Francia on the northeastern coast of Honduras. There, the organization received clandestine maritime and air shipments of cocaine from sources in South America. Individual shipments of cocaine usually carried hundreds of – and sometimes more than a thousand – kilograms of cocaine. After receiving a shipment of cocaine, Los Montes worked with other drug traffickers to transport the cocaine inland through Honduras into Guatemala and, eventually, Mexico, where the cocaine would then be imported into, and distributed within, the United States.
“Today’s sentencing reflects the Department of Justice’s commitment to holding traffickers like Ramos-Bobadilla accountable and dismantling the trafficking organizations they support,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Criminal Division will continue to work tirelessly with our federal, state, and international partners to ensure that our communities are kept safe.”
Ramos-Bobadilla played an active leadership role in Los Montes. Among other responsibilities, she participated in the negotiation of cocaine transactions with other drug traffickers in Central and South America, managed the proceeds that the organization made from the sale of cocaine and, at times, paid sources of supply for cocaine that Los Montes purchased. Ramos-Bobadilla employed armed individuals to work at her direction and control, including by providing security for her and her cocaine shipments.
“The Montes-Bobadilla Drug Trafficking Organization terrorized and poisoned communities under Ramos-Bobadilla’s leadership,” said Special Agent in Charge Jarod Forget of the DEA Washington Field Division. “Today’s sentencing is a testament to the capabilities and commitment by DEA to ensure that any domestic or foreign criminal who peddles deadly drugs into our neighborhoods and puts our families at risk will be held accountable.”
“The defendant and her family lead a dangerous drug cartel that brought thousands of kilograms of poisonous drugs into the United States from Honduras and left murder, corruption, violence, and terror in its wake. EDVA prioritizes the investigation, dismantling, and prosecution of organizations like The Los Montes cartel that destroy communities across nations,” said U.S. Attorney Jessica D. Aber for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Today’s sentence would not have been possible without the coordinated efforts of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners who work tirelessly to stop illicit drugs and violence from infiltrating our neighborhoods.”
Ramos-Bobadilla also participated in procuring, planning, and arranging acts of violence, including murders, in furtherance of the conspiracy. For example, Los Montes and other Honduran drug-trafficking organizations conspired to finance the murder of the head of Honduras’ anti-drug trafficking agency in December 2009. In June 2013, along with her son, Noe Montes-Bobadilla, and another co-conspirator, Ramos-Bobadilla also participated in coordinating and directing the murder of a permanent resident of the United States in Tocoa, Honduras, in retaliation for perceived cooperation with the U.S. government.
In addition to her participation in these acts of violence, Ramos-Bobadilla engaged in bribery in furtherance of the conspiracy. Ramos-Bobadilla and her co-conspirators made payments to public officials in Honduras, including police officers and other law enforcement officials, to facilitate and protect the family’s drug-trafficking operations.
“Erlinda Ramos-Bobadilla played a leadership role in a major operation trafficking narcotics into and distributing them throughout the United States,” said Special Agent in Charge Derek W. Gordon of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C. “There is no way to know for sure just how much damage Ramos-Bobadilla left in her wake; however, thanks to the collaborative efforts of HSI and our law enforcement partners, Ramos-Bobadilla’s drug trafficking days are over now. HSI will continue to exhaust every resource at our disposal to bring such drug traffickers to justice and ensure the safety of the communities we have sworn to protect.”
On Oct. 8, 2015, Ramos-Bobadilla and five co-conspirators were charged by indictment in the Eastern District of Virginia with conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine for importation into the United States. Three of Ramos-Bobadilla’s co-conspirators have been convicted and sentenced in this case:
- Noe Montes-Bobadilla was sentenced in April 2019 to 37 years in prison.
- Arnulfo Fagot-Maximo was sentenced in May 2019 to 33 years in prison.
- Jose del Trancito Garcia-Teruel was sentenced in February 2022 to 13 years in prison.
- One co-conspirator, Tito Montes-Bobadilla, aka Alejandro Montes-Bobadilla, aka Pimpi, is deceased.
The DEA Washington Field Division investigated the case with assistance from FBI’s Washington Field Office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) HSI Washington, D.C., and the Virginia State Police. The Honduran National Police and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance. The Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) supported this case.
Trial Attorneys Douglas Meisel and Janet Turnbull of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas W. Traxler, Anthony T. Aminoff, and James L. Trump of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia prosecuted the case. The U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Southern District of New York, the Middle District of Florida, and the Southern District of Florida also provided assistance.