Honduran Man Indicted for Conspiring to Launder Over $1 Million in Bribes and Funds Misappropriated from the Honduran Social Security Agency
A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Louisiana has returned a 12-count indictment charging Carlos Alberto Zelaya Rojas with money laundering violations, impairing the court’s jurisdiction over property subject to forfeiture, impeding an official proceeding, and perjury. Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Deputy Director Thomas D. Homan of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made the announcement.
According to the indictment, Carlos Zelaya, 47, a citizen of Honduras who was residing in the New Orleans area, conspired with his brother, the former Executive Director of the Honduran Institute of Social Security, and others, to launder over $1.3 million in bribe payments. These bribes were paid by two Honduran businessmen for the benefit of the Executive Director. The funds were then laundered into the New Orleans area through international wire transfers and used to purchase real estate. As part of the conspiracy, Carlos Zelaya also used his brother’s high-ranking official position to profit from lucrative Honduran government contracts and then laundered the misappropriated funds into the New Orleans area. Zelaya was arrested earlier today and had his initial court appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel E. Knowles III, who ordered him to remain in custody pending his detention hearing on May 3.
The indictment also charges Carlos Zelaya with spending rental income from properties purchased with the proceeds of foreign corruption while he was under a court order to preserve the funds pending resolution of a federal forfeiture action. Additionally, the indictment charges that Carlos Zelaya impeded an official proceeding when he lied to the U.S. government about the source of the funds used to purchase the New Orleans-area properties, and further, that he committed perjury when he lied to a federal judge in the Eastern District of Louisiana about the rental income.
An indictment is merely an accusation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The investigation was conducted by ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New Orleans and Miami. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Stephen A. Gibbons, Marybeth Grunstra, and Michael B. Redmann of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
This case was brought under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative by a team of prosecutors in the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, working in partnership with federal law enforcement agencies, dedicated to prosecuting those who facilitate foreign official corruption which affects the U.S. financial system, forfeiting assets purchased with the proceeds of that corruption, and, where appropriate, repatriating the forfeited corruption proceeds for the benefit of the people of the country harmed by the abuse of public office. Individuals with information about possible proceeds of foreign corruption located in or laundered through the United States should contact federal law enforcement or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.