Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Anne Milgram, the Administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), announced today the extradition of JUAN CARLOS BONILLA VALLADARES, a/k/a “El Tigre,” on charges of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States and related weapons offenses involving the use and possession of machine guns and destructive devices. BONILLA VALLADARES arrived from Honduras in the Southern District of New York yesterday, and will be presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Rather than use his high-powered position as the Chief of Honduran Police to combat drug trafficking, Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares, a/k/a ‘El Tigre,’ corruptly exploited his position to protect and assist the drug trafficking organizations he was obligated to disrupt. With his support and protection, Bonilla Valladares’s associates became a critical pipeline for the Central American drug trade to the United States. His extradition demonstrates that no one is exempt by virtue of their title or position of authority – even foreign Presidents and police chiefs – from criminal prosecution for contributing to the flood of illegal narcotics into this country that causes so much harm.”
DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said: “Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez would not have risen to power and successfully benefited from massive drug proceeds had it not been for his expansive network of corrupt associates. These associates, including Bonilla Valladares, likewise exploited their positions to traffic cocaine to the United States and violently protect other politically connected drug traffickers, all for their own personal gains. Bonilla Valladares further betrayed the Honduran people by using his law enforcement badge to cover for his crimes. Bonilla Valladares’s extradition shows the world once again that corrupt officials cannot hide behind their positions. DEA, in coordination with our U.S. and international partners, will stop at nothing to bring to justice anyone who threatens the safety and health of Americans.”
According to the allegations contained in the Complaint charging BONILLA VALLADARES, evidence presented at the October 2019 trial of Juan Antonio Hernandez Alvarado (“Hernandez Alvarado”) in the Southern District of New York, and statements in open court during the prosecution of Hernandez Alvarado:
Between approximately 2003 and 2020, multiple drug-trafficking organizations in Honduras and elsewhere worked together, and with support from certain prominent public and private individuals, including Honduran politicians and law enforcement officials, to receive multi-ton loads of cocaine sent to Honduras from, among other places, Colombia and Venezuela via air and maritime routes, and to transport the drugs westward in Honduras toward the border with Guatemala and eventually to the United States. For protection from law enforcement interference, and in order to facilitate the safe passage through Honduras of multi-ton loads of cocaine, drug traffickers paid bribes to public officials, including certain presidents, members of the National Congress of Honduras, and personnel from the Honduran National Police, including BONILLA VALLADARES.
BONILLA VALLADARES was a member of the Honduran National Police between approximately 1998 and approximately 2016. During his tenure, he held high-ranking positions, including Regional Police Chief with authority over locations in western Honduras that were strategically important to drug traffickers, and Chief of the Honduran National Police for all of Honduras between approximately 2012 and approximately 2013. BONILLA VALLADARES corruptly exploited these official positions to facilitate cocaine trafficking, and used violence, including murder, to protect the particular cell of politically connected drug traffickers he aligned with, including former Honduran congressman Hernandez Alvarado and former president of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernandez (“Hernandez”), who is referred to in the Complaint charging BONILLA VALLADARES as “CC-4.”
For example, in exchange for bribes paid in drug proceeds, BONILLA VALLADARES directed members of the Honduran National Police, who were armed with machine guns, to let cocaine shipments pass through police checkpoints without being inspected or seized. BONILLA VALLADARES, in coordination with Hernandez Alvarado and others, also provided members of their conspiracy with sensitive law enforcement information to facilitate cocaine shipments, including information regarding aerial and maritime interdiction operations.
In or about 2010, Hernandez Alvarado told a cooperating witness (“CW-1”) that Hernandez Alvarado and Hernandez helped BONILLA VALLADARES advance his position within the Honduran National Police, and that BONILLA VALLADARES protected their drug-trafficking activities in return. Hernandez Alvarado also told CW-1 that BONILLA VALLADARES was very violent, and that Hernandez Alvarado and Hernandez trusted BONILLA VALLADARES with special assignments, including murder. For example, in or about July 2011, BONILLA VALLADARES participated in the murder of a rival drug trafficker at the request of Hernandez Alvarado and others because the rival trafficker had attempted to prevent Hernandez Alvarado and other members of the conspiracy from transporting cocaine through a region of western Honduras near the border with Guatemala.
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The Complaint charges BONILLA VALLADARES, 62, with: (1) conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, (2) using and carrying machine guns and destructive devices during and in relation to, and possessing machine guns and destructive devices in furtherance of, the cocaine-importation conspiracy; and (3) conspiring to use and carry machine guns and destructive devices during and in relation to, and to possess machine guns and destructive devices in furtherance of, the cocaine-importation conspiracy. If convicted, BONILLA VALLADARES 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 life in prison on Count Three.
The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the DEA’s Special Operations Division Bilateral Investigations Unit, New York Strike Force, and the Tegucigalpa Country Office. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided valuable assistance in securing BONILLA VALLADARES’s arrest and extradition.
This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
This case is being handled by the Office’s National Security and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jacob H. Gutwillig, Michael D. Lockard, Jason A. Richman, and Elinor L. Tarlow are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges in the Complaint are merely accusations, and BONILLA VALLADARES is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
 As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint and the description of the Complaint set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.