Honduran National Guilty of Soliciting Murder-For-Hire of Family Members
BEAUMONT, Texas – A Honduran national residing in Port Arthur has pleaded guilty to federal violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei today.
Santos Orellana-Hernandez, 47, pleaded guilty to use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire, tampering with a witness by intimidation and threats, and conspiracy to commit witness tampering. Orellana-Hernandez entered his guilty plea today before U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield.
“Public safety in the Eastern District of Texas is enhanced by the excellent partnerships we have between local and federal law enforcement. In this case, as soon as the Port Arthur Police Department learned of the defendant’s plot to kill his Port Arthur family’s relatives in Honduras, they coordinated with the FBI, who moved swiftly to prevent any bloodshed,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei. “I also commend the tremendous work of the investigative and prosecutorial team, which flew to Honduras to interview witnesses and prepare the criminal case against Mr. Orellana-Hernandez. Because of the excellent work of law enforcement in this matter, lives were saved.”
“Today’s announcement highlights the FBI's efforts in Beaumont, the FBI Legal Attaché office, and its local law enforcement and international partners to tirelessly and aggressively utilize all available investigative tools and methods at their disposal,” said Houston FBI Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner. “Law enforcement and the public must continue to work together to ensure our communities’ safety.”
“We appreciate the continued collaboration of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI on this case,” said Port Arthur Police Chief Timothy Duriso. “We will continue to work closely with our federal partners to make Port Arthur a safer place.”
According to information presented in court, from January to March of 2020, Orellana-Hernandez, residing in Port Arthur, Texas, solicited the murder of two extended family members residing in Honduras. Specifically, Orellana-Hernandez solicited Gustavo Ramires, a person located in Honduras, to kill Orellana-Hernandez’s mother-in-law, G.V., and brother-in-law, J.A.V. The purpose of the intended murders was revenge against Orellana-Hernandez’s soon-to-be ex-wife, who was seeking a divorce from Orellana-Hernandez in Jefferson County, Texas. Orellana-Hernandez reportedly told E.A.V. that he would make her “cry tears of blood.”
Orellana-Hernandez offered to pay Ramires $200,000 in Honduran Lempira (approximately $8,000 in U.S. dollars) upon proof that Ramires had killed G.V., J.A.V., and two other individuals. Orellana-Hernandez directed Ramires to perform the killings on or after April 21, 2020, the date when the divorce was to become final. Ramires was additionally instructed to provide photographic proof of the killings before he would receive payment. Ramires later placed a recorded telephone call to Orellana-Hernandez, in which the two discussed the murder-for-hire plot, using coded language such as “planting the corn,” to refer to the killings. Ramires later told investigators that “planting the corn” meant burying the victims’ bodies.
Orellana-Hernandez was indicted by a federal grand jury on May 20, 2020 and taken into federal custody. In early June, while jailed, Orellana-Hernandez conspired with another person to intimidate E.A.V. in an attempt to make her withdraw the murder-for-hire accusation. On Nov. 4, 2020, the grand jury returned a superseding indictment that added the witness tampering charges.
Orellana-Hernandez faces up to 20 years in federal prison. The maximum statutory sentence prescribed by Congress is provided here for information purposes, as the sentencing will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John B. Ross and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean C. Day.