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Press Release

U.S. Attorney And Federal Law Enforcement Officials Announce Extradition Of Honduran Nationals In Fight Against Fentanyl Trafficking In The Tenderloin District Of San Francisco

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California

SAN FRANCISCO – U.S. Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey convened a press conference today with Brian Clark, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Robert K. Tripp, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to announce that the government of Honduras extradited three of its nationals to the United States. The three Honduran nationals now will face federal felony charges that they were involved in separate conspiracies to sell drugs in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. U.S. Attorney Ramsey used the occasion to provide an update the progress being made after his November 2023 announcement that federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities would be implementing “All Hands on Deck,” a joint law enforcement initiative to address drug dealing in San Francisco.

The three extradited Honduran nationals are Jorge Alberto Viera-Chirinos, 34; Mayer Benegas-Medina, 30; and Elmer Bonilla Matute, 34.

Viera-Chirinos was originally charged by criminal complaint on July 29, 2019, with charges that he participated in a conspiracy to distribute drugs on the Tenderloin. Viera-Chirinos was arrested the same day. On May 6, 2020, he was released on bond. A federal grand jury indicted Viera-Chirinos on August 8, 2019; the indictment alleges he is one of 14 defendants trafficking large quantities of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine base, and cocaine in San Francisco. The indictment alleged Viera-Chirinos was a high-level manager of the organization responsible for having overseen the organization’s drug trafficking activities. On September 2, 2020, he fled from the home where he was required to stay while on release, thereby violating the terms of his bond. The court issued an arrest warrant but Viera-Chirinos fled to Honduras where he was later found. He will now face the charges set out in the August 2019 indictment. He made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter H Kang on Feb. 23, 2024. His next appearance is scheduled to take place February 28, 2023, before Magistrate Judge Kang.

A federal grand jury indicted Mayer Benegas-Medina on December 16, 2020. The indictment alleges Benegas participated in a conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute fentanyl. Benegas was arrested on December 10, 2020, and on December 21, 2020, he was ordered released on bond. The terms of his release included electronic monitoring and a curfew. In March 2021, he absconded. He was found in Honduras and made his initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Kang on Feb. 23, 2024. His next court appearance is scheduled for March 26, 2024, before the Hon. William Alsup, U.S. District Judge.

A federal grand jury indicted Matute on Dec. 19, 2019, charging him with possession with intent to distribute heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and cocaine base. The indictment alleges Matute is part of a drug trafficking organization based in San Francisco and that, between approximately 2017 and 2019, was responsible for distributing large quantities of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine base, and cocaine as well as trafficking the drugs through the State of Oregon and into the State of Washington. Matute appeared before Magistrate Judge Kang this morning. His next appearance in district court is scheduled for April 3, 2024, before Hon. Vince Chhabria, U.S. District Judge.

At today’s press conference, U.S. Attorney Ramsey stated that as the elements of “All Hands on Deck” are implemented, the pressure on drug dealers in the Tenderloin will continue to increase. “In addition to the risk that your money will be taken and that you may face criminal penalties far in excess than you anticipated, you can now add that you should look over your shoulder for years after committing your crime—even if you leave the country.” In addition, U.S. Attorney Ramsey stated that various elements of the “All Hands on Deck” initiative continue to be implemented. U.S. Attorney Ramsey recited several cases in which defendant received lengthy sentences and reviewed additional elements of “All Hands on Deck” including the following:

•    The Office of the United States Attorney is pursuing criminal actions related to money services businesses that facilitate the movement of drug profits.

•    The Office of the United States Attorney has convicted 51 defendants under a Fast Track program. The program supplements traditional federal drug distribution cases and brings consequences to low-level dealers in the Tenderloin.

•    Federal prosecutors join with local prosecutors at state court on two random days per week to review cases that can be pursued in federal, rather than state, courts.

“In sum,” said U.S. Attorney Ramsey, “drug dealing in the Tenderloin is simply a different proposition than it’s been in the past.”

“These extraditions should send a clear message to those who peddle poison in San Francisco: if you traffic deadly drugs that threaten the safety and health of our community, if you flee from justice, if you think you can hide, you are wrong. DEA will be relentless in our pursuit to hold you accountable,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian M. Clark.

U.S. Attorney Ramsey thanked the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs for their substantial assistance in securing the arrests and extraditions of Viera-Chirinos, Benegas-Medina and Matute.

Updated February 28, 2024