Charges have been filed in Manhattan federal court against Honduran congressman Midence Oqueli Martinez Turcios and, in a separate indictment, Arnaldo Soto, Carlos Soto, and Miguel Soto. The charges in each indictment include conspiring to import cocaine into the United States and related weapons offenses involving the use and possession of machineguns and destructive devices. The United States is seeking the defendants’ extraditions from Honduras.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “As alleged, these defendants include a Honduran congressman and a former Honduran mayor. All are charged with conspiring to import cocaine into the U.S. and conspiring to use and carry machineguns and destructive devices in furtherance of cocaine importation. Politically connected defendants in Honduras allegedly working in league with violent drug cartels is a recipe for harm here in the U.S. We are committed to working with the DEA to police and prosecute such conduct.”
Special Agent in Charge Raymond P. Donovan said: “DEA and our partners continue to expose drug-related corruption across the world, which fuels violence and insurgency while upending the rule of law. These Honduran elected officials and their associates allegedly conspired with the Sinaloa Cartel and flooded American communities with huge amounts of deadly poison. DEA looks forward to their extradition to the United States to face American justice and answer for their many alleged crimes.”
As alleged in the Indictments unsealed in federal court:
From at least in or about 2004, up to and including in or about 2014, multiple drug trafficking organizations in Honduras and elsewhere worked together, and with support from Martinez Turcios the Urbina Soto defendants, and others, to receive multi-hundred-kilogram loads of cocaine sent to Honduras via air and maritime routes from, among other places, Venezuela and Colombia. The cocaine shipments were transported westward within Honduras toward the border with Guatemala and eventually imported into the United States, often in coordination with high-ranking members of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel.
Martinez Turcios is a legislator, referred to as a diputado, in the National Congress of Honduras. Martinez Turcios is the second Honduran congressman to be charged in connection with the DEA’s investigation of politically connected drug trafficking in Honduras. In January 2018, Honduran congressman Fredy Renan Najera Montoya was also charged with conspiring to import cocaine into the United States and related firearms offenses
Martinez Turcios was a member of a violent Honduran drug trafficking organization known as the Cachiros. Between in or about 2004 and in or about 2014, Martinez Turcios received a total of over $1 million in bribes and other payments from the leaders of the Cachiros, which he used to, among other things, enrich himself and fund his campaign activities and political operations. Martinez Turcios helped provide the appearance of legitimacy to the leaders of the Cachiros by virtue of his political position and authority, and by acting at times as a nominal partial owner of one of the organization’s money laundering front companies, Ganaderos Agricultores del Norte, S. de R.L. de C.V. Martinez Turcios also provided direct support for violent drug trafficking activities by the Cachiros. For example, Martinez Turcios personally escorted some Cachiros cocaine shipments as they were transported through Honduras, managed heavily armed security teams responsible for protecting large quantities of drugs, participated in weapons training provided to paid Cachiros assassins recruited from the gang known as Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, and helped plan and participated in acts of violence perpetrated by members and associates of the Cachiros.
As alleged in a separate Indictment, between in or about 2005 and in or about 2014, the suspects operated a drug trafficking organization based in Yoro, Honduras, where Arnoldo SotoO acted as mayor between in or about 2009 and in or about 2014. The Urbina Soto defendants capitalized on their power in the Yoro Department and aligned with other major Honduran criminal syndicates, such as the Cachiros and the Copan-based group led by Miguel Arnulfo Valle Valle and Luis Alonso Valle Valle, to receive cocaine-laden aircraft at various locations in Honduras, including clandestine airstrips in remote areas as well as public roads in the vicinity of Yoro. The Urbina Soto defendants coordinated – and at times personally joined – heavily armed security details that oversaw the unloading of the planes and the transportation of the illicit cargo in connection with importing massive quantities of cocaine into the United States.
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Martinez Turcios, 57, is charged in three counts: (1) conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, (2) using and carrying machineguns and destructive devices during, and possessing machineguns and destructive devices in furtherance of, the cocaine importation conspiracy, and (3) conspiring to use and carry machineguns and destructive devices during, and to possess machineguns and destructive devices in furtherance of, the cocaine importation conspiracy. If convicted, Martinez Turcios faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum term of life in prison on Count One, a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison and a maximum term of life in prison on Count Two, and a maximum term of 20 years in prison on Count Three.
The second Indictment charges Carlos Soto, 44, and Miguel Soto, 39, with violating the same statutes as Martinez Turcios. Arnaldo Soto, 37, is charged in two counts: (1) conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, and (2) conspiring to use and carry machineguns and destructive devices during, and to possess machineguns and destructive devices in furtherance of, the cocaine importation conspiracy. If convicted, they each face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum term of life in prison on Count One, a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison and a maximum term of life in prison on Count Two, and a maximum term of 20 years in prison on Count Three. If convicted, Arnaldo Soto faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum term of life in prison on Count One, and a maximum term of 20 years in prison on Count Three.
The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by a judge.