Matriarch of Violent Multimillion-Dollar Honduran Cocaine Trafficking Organization Pleads Guilty
A Honduran woman pleaded guilty today to participating in a large-scale conspiracy to traffic cocaine for importation into the United States.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Honduran woman pleaded guilty to participating in 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 Herlinda Bobadilla or Chinda, 62, served as a leader in the Montes-Bobadilla drug-trafficking organization, or “Los Montes,” one of the largest drug cartels in Honduras. Los Montes was based in the town of Francia, in the Department of Colón, on the northeastern coast of Honduras. There, the organization received maritime and clandestine 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.
“The Los Montes cartel, under the leadership of the defendant and her family, trafficked thousands of kilos of illicit drugs and committed heinous acts of violence, including murder, causing a devastating wave of fear and destruction that reverberated from Honduras to the U.S.,” said Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “My appreciation goes out to all of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners who work tirelessly to dismantle dangerous drug organizations, like Los Montes, that put so many innocent lives at risk. This effort is a message to those who continue to operate these cartels: you are not above the law, and you are not beyond our reach.”
“Today’s proceedings demonstrate DEA’s commitment to hold accountable violent criminals, domestic and abroad, who are peddling deadly drugs into our country and putting our families at risk. The Los Montes Cartel was a vicious drug trafficking organization that poisoned our citizens and engaged in violence to profit from drug trafficking. Our message to criminal organizations’ leadership is clear, we will not waver until drug distribution and it’s related violence is eradicated,” said Jarod Forget, Special Agent in Charge, DEA Washington Division.
Los Montes was a family-run organization. Ramos-Bobadilla’s husband was the leader of the organization and she worked closely with him in their cocaine-trafficking business. When her husband died in 2010, their son, Noe Montes-Bobadilla, assumed control of the organization. Ramos-Bobadilla continued to serve as a leader within the organization. Along with her other sons, Ramos-Bobadilla and Noe Montes oversaw all aspects of the family’s cocaine-trafficking operations.
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.
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’s anti-drug trafficking agency, in December 2009. Ramos-Bobadilla assisted in procuring Los Montes’s participation in the financing of that assassination. Along with her son, Noe Montes and, with the assistance of another drug trafficker, Ramos-Bobadilla also participated in coordinating and directing the murder of a permanent resident of the United States in Tocoa, Honduras, in June 2013 because they believed that she was a U.S. government informant.
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.
On October 8, 2015, Ramos-Bobadilla and five co-conspirators were charged in an indictment with conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine for importation into the United States. Three of Ramos-Bobadilla’s co-defendants have been convicted and sentenced in this case:
- Noe Montes-Bobadilla pleaded guilty in November 2018 and was sentenced to 37 years of imprisonment in April 2019.
- Arnulfo Fagot-Maximo was convicted by a jury in December 2018 and was sentenced to 33 years of imprisonment in May 2019.
- Jose del Trancito Garcia-Teruel pleaded guilty in June 2021 and was sentenced to 13 years of imprisonment in February 2022.
One co-defendant, Tito Montes-Bobadilla, aka Alejandro Montes-Bobadilla or Pimpi, is deceased.
The remaining co-defendant, Juan Carlos Montes-Bobadilla, aka Mono, is still a fugitive in this case. The U.S. Department of State is offering a reward up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Juan Carlos Montes Bobadilla. He is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Erlinda Ramos-Bobadilla is scheduled to be sentenced on March 28, 2023. She faces a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 10 years and maximum penalty of life in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Jarod Forget, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Washington Division, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema accepted the plea.
Assistance in the investigation and prosecution was provided by the Virginia State Police, FBI’s Washington Field Office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Southern District of New York, the Middle District of Florida, and the Southern District of Florida. Assistance was also provided by the Honduran National Police.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas W. Traxler, Anthony T. Aminoff, and James L. Trump of the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorneys Douglas Meisel and Janet Turnbull of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section are prosecuting the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance in securing the arrest and extradition of Ramos-Bobadilla.
This case is being investigated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Operation Harpoon. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.