Federal court convicts drug trafficker who 'bribed Honduran president'

Drug trafficker who ‘bribed Honduras President Hernández to ship cocaine to the United States’ is convicted in NY federal court

  • Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez was convicted Monday by a U.S. federal court in New York of conspiring to ship cocaine
  • The Honduran national was also convicted on an arms possession charge
  • Witnesses told federal prosecutors that Fuentes Ramírez had paid off Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández
  • The payments were allegedly made from the time Hernández was a presidential candidate until 2019
  • President Hernández, who has not been charged by U.S. federal authorities, has repeatedly denied the claims

A drug trafficker who was reportedly seen in the past paying off Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández was convicted by a New York federal court jury on Monday.

Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez was found guilty on three counts, which included cocaine trafficking and weapons charges.

‘Geovanny Fuentes Ramirez was, up until his arrest by the DEA just over a year ago, a ruthless, powerful, and murderous cocaine trafficker in Honduras,’ Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said. 

‘He facilitated the shipment of large loads of cocaine by bribing Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado, then president of the Honduran National Congress and now the Honduran president. Hernández Alvarado instructed Fuentes Ramirez to report directly to convicted co-conspirator and former Honduran congressman Tony Hernandez, the president’s brother.’ 

Fuentes Ramírez was arrested in Miami on March 1, 2020.

According to the Department of Justice, Fuentes Ramírez initiated a cocaine lab in the Honduran department of Cortes in or around 2009. The laboratory produced hundreds of kilos of cocaine each month. The drugs were then shipped off on private planes that departed from secret landing strips in Cortes.

Fuentes Ramírez also allegedly murdered a Honduran law enforcement agent who reportedly participated in a 2012 raid at the lab.

Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez was found guilty on three counts, which included cocaine trafficking and weapons charges by a New York federal court jury on Monday. Witnesses told federal prosecutors that Fuentes Ramírez had bribed Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández

Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández reportedly was bribed by convicted drug trafficker Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez, an allegation that he continues to deny. U.S. authorities have not charged him with any crime

During the two-week trial, witnesses told federal prosecutors that President Hernández had accepted kickback payments from Fuentes Ramírez and other drug traffickers.

The bribes allegedly took place during Hernández’s time as a presidential candidate up through at least 2019.    

The Honduran president has repeatedly denied any connection to drug traffickers and he has not been charged with any crime. 

However, federal prosecutors have become increasingly outspoken in connecting his political rise to funding from drug trafficking and he was named as a ‘co-conspirator’ in the Fuentes Ramírez case. 

The president’s brother, Tony Hernández, was convicted of drug trafficking and lying to the DEA in October 2019 and is scheduled to be sentenced next week.  

On Monday, Juan Orlando Hernández defended his posture against criminal organizations that have used the Central American nation as a springboard to traffic drugs to the United States.

‘Any narrative regarding the battle against drug trafficking in Honduras that omits the unprecedented 95% reduction (official US data) we achieved, is usually just a vehicle for dramatic headlines to promote false testimony by narcos we defeated,’ Hernández wrote on Twitter.  

During the trial, Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, former leader of the Cachiros cartel, testified that he had sent $250,000 to Hernández in 2012 through his sister in exchange for protection of his smuggling business and to avoid extradition.

Members of the Honduran opposition protested at the trial of Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez last Friday in New York.  Fuentes Ramírez, a native of Honduras, was convicted by a federal court jury on Monday on three counts, including conspiracy to traffic drugs and firearms possession

Juan Antonio ‘Tony’ Hernandez (pictured in 2017) was convicted in a massive drug conspiracy case in a New York City federal court in October 2019 and is expected to be sentenced next week. He is the brother of Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández

José Sánchez, an accountant, testified that he twice witnessed Hernández receiving bribes from Fuentes Ramírez in 2013. 

Sánchez owned a rice business that was used by Fuentes Ramírez to launder his illicit earnings off the drug trade.

Hernández had been president of Honduras´ congress and then launched his candidacy for the presidency. He took office in January 2014.

In January, U.S. federal prosecutors filed motions in the Fuentes Ramírez case saying that Hernández took bribes from drug traffickers and had the country’s armed forces protect a cocaine laboratory and shipments to the United States.

The documents quote Hernández – identified as co-conspirator 4 – as saying he wanted to ‘`shove the drugs right up the noses of the gringos´ by flooding the United States with cocaine.’

The Department of Justice said that the president ‘expressed interest in access to Fuentes Ramírez’s cocaine laboratory because of its proximity to a major commercial shipping port, agreed to facilitate the use of Honduran armed forces personnel as security for Fuentes Ramírez’s drug trafficking activities, and instructed Fuentes Ramírez to report directly to Juan Antonio Hernandez Alvarado for subsequent drug trafficking activities.’ 

U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel, who heard the case, will also sentence the president’s brother.

Eric Olson, director of policy at the Seattle International Foundation, said the verdict will have more impact on the people of Honduras than on President Hernández.

‘The Honduran people become more skeptical, more pessimistic, more hopeless about their future in their country when they look at their political leaders as corrupt officials,’ Olson said.

‘It is another piece of evidence against Juan Orlando but it is also another piece of evidence for the Honduran people that their government, their country is not able to respond to their needs and is probably why we are seeing so many Hondurans fleeing,’ Olson said. 

‘This particular case is serious, but is just another nail in his (the president’s) political coffin.’

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