Honduran drug trafficker Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez was sentenced to life in prison by a federal court in New York on Tuesday
Fuentes Ramírez, 51, was arrested in 2020 and convicted in March 2021 on charges related to conspiracy to import and the importation of cocaine as well as possessing, carrying and using machine guns in the commission of those offenses
DOJ said Fuentes Ramírez who was convicted on three counts faces 10 years to life in prison on one count, 30 years on the second count, and a maximum of life in prison on the third count.
He was also instructed to turn over $151.7 million in illicit profits
U.S. federal prosecutors accused him of bribing former Honduras president, Juan Orlando Hernández, and other high-ranking officials for the protection of his drug-related activities
A high-flying drug trafficker accused of paying off the president of Honduras and other high-ranking government officials to flood the US with tons of cocaine will be spending the rest of his life inside a United States prison.
Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez was sentenced to life in prison by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on Tuesday, the Department of Justice said in a press release.
Fuentes Ramírez, 51, was arrested in Miami in March 2020 and was convicted in March 2021 on three counts, including cocaine trafficking and weapons charges.
According to the US Dept Of Justice release, Fuentes Ramírez was convicted on three counts of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, using and carrying machine guns during, and possessing machine guns in furtherance of, the cocaine-importation conspiracy and conspiring to use and carry machine guns during, and to possess machine guns in furtherance of, the cocaine-importation conspiracy.
On the first count he faces 10 years to life in prison. On the second count he faces a consecutive 30 year term. He is also facing maximum of life in prison on the third count.
He was also instructed to turn over $151.7 million in illicit profits.
‘Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez was convicted of importing tons of cocaine into the United States and protecting his illicit drug business with machine guns,’ U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said.
Williams added that the drug lord also ‘bribed high-ranking Honduran officials and was responsible for brutal acts of violence and murder.’
‘Fuentes Ramírez’s path of destruction, both in violence and flooding the United States with cocaine, has finally come to an end, and he will now spend his life in federal prison,’ Williams said.
According to prosecutors, Fuentes “a prolific, powerful, and murderous cocaine trafficker” was aided by high-ranking politicians and police officials in Honduras.
Cartel boss was accused of drug trafficking and related weapons charges.
Fuentes Ramírez got his transnational cocaine shipping business running in or around 2009 in the the Honduran city of Cortes, according to the Department of Justice.
Federal U.S. law enforcement investigators said he started a cocaine lab that pumped out hundreds of kilos of cocaine each month. The cocaine was 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.
During the drug kingpin’s two-week trial in March 2021, Devis Rivera, the former leader of the Cachiros Cartel, told the New York jury that Fuentes Ramírez and other drug traffickers had provided kickback payments to former President Juan Orlando Hernández.
He 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.
José Sánchez, an accountant whose rice business was used by Fuentes Ramírez to launder money, testified that he twice witnessed Hernández receiving bribes from Fuentes Ramírez in 2013.
Federal prosecutors said the alleged payments were received by Hernández while he was a president through at least 2019.
Hernandez became president in 2014 and led the impoverished Central American nation until last month, when he lost the election to anti-corruption candidate Xiomara Castro.
Hernandez has not been charged in the US. However, his brother, Juan Antonio ‘Tony’ Hernandez Alvarado was sentenced to life in prison in March 2021, after he was found guilty of trafficking drugs and lying to the Drug Enforcement Administration in October 2019.
The US Department of Justice contended that then-President Hernández ‘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.’
Following the conviction, U.S. Attorney Audrey Strass said that Fuentes Ramírez ‘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.’
The conviction of Fuentes Ramírez came one day after the administration of President Joe Biden declassified a report that showed that President Hernández has been placed on a blacklist last year.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that there were ‘credible’ reports that Hernández ‘has engaged in significant corruption by committing or facilitating acts of corruption and narco-trafficking, and using the proceeds of illicit activity to facilitate political campaigns.’
Hernández, whose eight-year term ended January 27, has denied such allegations.
The State Department included Hernández on the Corrupt and Undemocratic Actors List effective July 1, 2021, but was now declassifying and publicizing the decision, Blinken said.
Inclusion on the list ‘generally makes the listed individuals ineligible for visas and admission to the United States,’ Blinken said.
Hernández, in a response published as an open letter, touted his achievements in reducing street crime and curbing the trafficking of narcotics bound for the United States.
‘It is surprising that this decision … is made based on ‘media reports’ and also on statements from drug traffickers and confessed murderers who were extradited by my government, or who had to flee and surrender to the United States authorities for fear of being extradited,’ Hernández said.
The former leader lauded his government’s efforts against cartels by stating that 28 criminal organization leaders were extradited and 31 others voluntarily turned themselves in to U.S. federal authorities.
He claimed that during his term, his administration reduced the flow of narcotics from Honduras to the United States by 83 percent.
In addition, he credited binational efforts to the 41,240 kilos of cocaine that were seized between 2014 and 2021. Hernández indicated that law enforcement agencies helped destroy 327 secret landing strips and apprehended more than 7,000 people linked to drug trafficking. By contrast Newly inaugurated Honduran President, Xiomara Castro, who was sworn is as the Honduran President on January 27, in the past has stressed her commitment to evicting cartels from the Central American nation.
President Castro said on election night that she was committed to rooting out ‘corruption,’ ‘drug trafficking,’ and ‘organized crime.’
However, she did not comment after Fuentes Ramírez’s conviction on Tuesday.