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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Former Honduran Cabinet Official Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court To Money Laundering Charge

Yankel Rosenthal Coello–the former Minister of Investment of Honduras, president of Honduran soccer club C.D. Marathón, and a prominent businessman – pled guilty to an offense involving providing financial services to significant Honduran drug trafficker

Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that Yankel Rosenthal Coello pled guilty in Manhattan federal court to attempting to engage in monetary transactions in property derived from drug trafficking offenses in 2013, and Andres Acosta Garcia previously pled guilty to engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from drug trafficking offenses between 2004 and September 2015.  ROSENTHAL, who was arrested at Miami International Airport on October 6, 2015, pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni.  Acosta, who surrendered in the United States on December 29, 2015, pled guilty on August 16, 2017, before U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla. 

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said:  “As they admitted in Manhattan federal court, Yankel Rosenthal and Andres Acosta sought to assist Honduran drug traffickers in laundering the proceeds of their crimes. Rosenthal tried to conceal drug-tainted money through the purchase of U.S. real estate, political contributions in Honduras, and even investment in a professional soccer team. Acosta worked with other members of the Rosenthal family to assist the Cachiros, a notoriously brutal Honduran drug trafficking organization. Despite their attempts to launder these ill-gotten gains, with these pleas Rosenthal and Acosta face significant time in prison.”

According to the Superseding Indictment, other court filings, and statements made during court proceedings[1]:

Beginning in at least 2009, ROSENTHAL provided financial services in Honduras to multiple significant Honduran drug traffickers, which related principally to real estate transactions.  In 2013, ROSENTHAL attempted to launder over a million dollars of drug money by accepting the tainted funds from drug traffickers in Honduras and using his own access to credit to finance a real estate deal in Doral, Florida, which was to involve the same drug traffickers obtaining untainted property assets.  ROSENTHAL also funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of bribes from drug traffickers seeking official protection, which were styled as purported campaign contributions, to his cousin and co-defendant Yani Benjamin Rosenthal Hidalgo, which Rosenthal Hidalgo used in connection with failed efforts to become the President of Honduras.  In addition, ROSENTHAL obtained a purported investment from a drug trafficker, comprising hundreds of thousands of dollars of drug money, in C.D. Marathón, the Honduran soccer club ROSENTHAL controlled. 

During a recorded meeting in Honduras with several significant Honduran drug traffickers, including one of the leaders of the Cachiros, a prolific and violent Honduran criminal syndicate that distributed huge quantities of cocaine before being dismantled by the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), ROSENTHAL discussed some of these bribes and the possibility of obtaining assistance from one or more Honduran politicians so that the drug traffickers could avoid being targeted by law enforcement and extradited to the United States.  In an April 2013 email, ROSENTHAL solicited a bribe for another high-ranking Honduran politician from a U.S.-based company (“Company-1”), which was seeking oil-exploration rights in Honduras, explaining: 

[L]ike I told you a couple of years ago sadly in our countries politicians expect colaboaration [sic] to their campains [sic] when approached for a business proposal, I have all the confidence in this friend he has power now and will have much more later on (Nov 2013), can he count on a contribution for his campain [sic] and at the same time with the unde[r]standing he will help with the exploration and ambient permits requi[r]ed?

In September 2013, one of Company-1’s principals informed ROSENTHAL via email that he was prepared “to contribute to your friend’s election for President,” and subsequently wrote a $100,000 check to one of ROSENTHAL’s shell companies, Shelimar Investments.

ACOSTA worked with his co-defendants, including Jaime Rolando Rosenthal Oliva, a former Vice President and congressman in Honduras, and Rosenthal Hidalgo, also a former congressman and two-time candidate for President of Honduras, to use entities controlled by the Rosenthal family to launder drug proceeds for the Cachiros.  Rosenthal Hidalgo pled guilty on July 26, 2017, to engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from drug trafficking offenses between 2004 and September 2015.  Several aspects of the Cachiros money-laundering scheme that ACOSTA participated in also received support from Fabio Porfirio Lobo, the son of a former President of Honduras. Lobo is scheduled to be sentenced on September 5, 2017, by U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield in United States v. Lobo, No. 15 Cr. 174 (LGS), based on his conviction for participating in a conspiracy with members of the Cachiros and others to import cocaine into the United States.

ROSENTHAL remains designated as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, along with Rosenthal Oliva (ROSENTHAL’s uncle), Rosenthal Hidalgo (ROSENTHAL’s cousin), and Shelimar Investments, as announced in October 2015 by the United States Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”).

* * *

ROSENTHAL, 48, pled guilty to one count of attempting to engage in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity. The charge carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison. ACOSTA, 42, pled guilty to one count of engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity. The charge carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by a judge. ROSENTHAL is scheduled to be sentenced on January 19, 2018, and ACOSTA is scheduled to be sentenced on January 12, 2018.  Both defendants are to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl.

Mr. Kim praised the outstanding efforts of the DEA’s Special Operations Division Bilateral Investigations Unit, New York Strike Force, and Tegucigalpa Country Office, as well as OFAC and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs.

This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emil J. Bove III, Jane Kim, and Matthew J. Laroche are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment against Jaime Rolando Rosenthal Oliva are merely accusations, and Rosenthal Oliva is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

[1] The descriptions set forth below of conduct by co-defendant Jaime Rolando Rosenthal Oliva constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation with respect to Rosenthal Oliva.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 
17-276
Updated August 29, 2017