Former Honduran National Police Chief sentenced to 14 years in prison for conspiring to import cocaine into the United States and to possess firearms
NEW YORK - Raymond Donovan, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Special Operations Division and Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that Carlos Alberto Valladares Garcia, a former high-ranking member of the Honduran National Police, was sentenced yesterday to 14 years in prison for conspiring to import cocaine into the United States and for conspiring to possess firearms in furtherance of his drug-trafficking activities. Valladares pled guilty April 24, 2018, and was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield.
“The sentencing of Carlos Alberto Valladares Garcia sends a strong message to drug traffickers across the globe,” said Special Agent in Charge Raymond Donovan. “As a member of the Honduran National Police, Valladares betrayed the trust of the people he served. This case confirms that anyone who associates and benefits from drug trafficking can and will be held accountable.”
“Carlos Alberto Valladares Garcia, a former Honduran National Police chief, worked from the inside to ensure a criminal enterprise operated with impunity,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman. “Not only did he provide clearance for a drug trafficking organization’s drugs to flow through his country and into the United States, but Valladares – a sworn law enforcement officer – participated directly in drug-related murders and cover ups. For his heinous acts, Valladares will serve 14 years in an American prison.”
According to the indictment, other court filings, and statements made during court proceedings:
From approximately 1995 through 2013, Valladares served as a member of the Honduran National Police, holding positions including, among others, Chief of the Homicide Division in San Pedro Sula; Chief of Police for the city El Progreso, Yoro Department; and Chief of Police for the city of Quimistan, Santa Barbara Department. Between at least approximately 2005 and 2013, Valladares worked with members of a drug-trafficking organization known as the Cachiros, which was a prolific and violent criminal syndicate that relied on connections to politicians, military personnel, and law enforcement to transport cocaine to, within, and from Honduras. During that time, and while Valladares was purportedly enforcing the law as a police officer, Valladares participated in the Cachiros’ criminal enterprise by engaging in acts of violence, including several murders, and supporting their drug-trafficking activities.
For example, in approximately 2008, Valladares participated in a shootout in a nightclub that left several people dead. Prior to the shooting, the then-leaders of the Cachiros—Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga and Javier Eriberto Rivera Maradiaga—and a Honduran congressman also working with the Cachiros agreed to kill an individual in retaliation for drug-related violence. Leonel Rivera and Javier Rivera lured the intended victim to a nightclub in San Pedro Sula where a shootout occurred in which Valladares participated by firing his weapon. Several members of the intended victim’s security team were killed during this incident. Valladares also participated in additional acts of violence with the Cachiros. In October 2011, Valladares drove Leonel Rivera to an airport in San Pedro Sula to observe a shootout between members of the Cachiros and rival drug traffickers, which left six people dead. Prior to the shooting, Leonel Rivera told Valladares that he would be witnessing a “war.” And in approximately 2012, Valladares helped Leonel Rivera kill two individuals by identifying them as perpetrators of a murder and assisting in their kidnapping.
Valladares also was a significant part of the Cachiros’ drug-trafficking operations. On several occasions, Valladares accompanied Leonel Rivera during the transportation of drugs; was present at airstrips when substantial quantities of drugs were received by the Cachiros; and communicated with Leonel Rivera while the Cachiros transported drugs through Honduras. Valladares also carried a firearm during some of this conduct and was present with security teams that were armed with assault rifles.
To commit these crimes, Valladares took advantage of his position as a member of the Honduran National Police. The abuse of his position began in approximately 2004 when Valladares met Leonel Rivera and agreed to end an investigation that had identified Leonel Rivera as the perpetrator of a homicide. Over the next decade, and while Valladares rose through the ranks of the Honduran National Police and received awards for his purportedly honorable conduct, Valladares continued to use his position to assist the Cachiros. For example, Valladares (i) convinced a witness to not press charges against Leonel Rivera for a homicide; (ii) provided information to the Cachiros concerning police checkpoints; (iii) recruited other Honduran National Police officers to assist the Cachiros; (iv) worked with other corrupt cops to remove a seized truck from a secure premises to recover approximately 100 kilograms of cocaine in exchange for approximately $80,000 in U.S. currency; and (v) recovered $2 million in U.S. currency in drug-trafficking proceeds that was seized by law enforcement and returned it to the Cachiros.
In addition to the prison term, Valladares, 43, was sentenced to four years of supervised release.
Six other former members of the Honduran National Police, including, among others, Mario Guillermo Mejia Vargas, Victor Oswaldo Lopez Flores, Ludwig Criss Zelaya Romero, Juan Manuel Avila Meza, and Carlos Jose Zavala Velasquez, are also charged in this case with firearms and/or drug trafficking offenses relating to a separate conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States. Each of those individuals has pled guilty in federal court, along with co-conspirator Fabio Porfirio Lobo. On Sept. 5, 2017, Lobo was sentenced to 24 years in prison; on Feb. 6, 2018, Flores was sentenced to five years in prison; and on June 27, 2018, Velasquez was sentenced to 12 years in prison. The remaining defendants await sentencing by Judge Schofield.
Mr. Berman praised the outstanding efforts of the Special Operations Division of the DEA Bilateral Investigations Unit, New York Strike Force, and Tegucigalpa Country Office. Mr. Berman also thanked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs for their ongoing assistance.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emil J. Bove III and Matthew Laroche are in charge of the prosecution.