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Press Release

Former Honduran Congressman And Businessman Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court To Money Laundering Charge

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York
Yani Benjamin Rosenthal Hidalgo, a former Honduran politician and prominent businessman, pleaded guilty to laundering drug proceeds for the Cachiros, a major Honduran drug-trafficking organization

Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced today that Yani Benjamin Rosenthal Hidalgo pled guilty in Manhattan federal court to engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from drug-trafficking offenses between 2004 and September 2015. ROSENTHAL, who surrendered in the United States on October 23, 2015, pled guilty before U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl. During the course of the money laundering scheme, ROSENTHAL was Minister of the Presidency to a former President of Honduras between 2006 and 2007, a Honduran congressman between 2010 and 2014, and a candidate for President of Honduras in the 2009 and 2013 elections.

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “As he admitted today in Manhattan federal court, Yani Rosenthal, a formerly prominent Honduran politician and businessman, also moonlighted as a money launderer for a ruthlessly violent drug-trafficking organization known as the Cachiros. Now this former government official and two-time candidate for President of Honduras awaits sentencing before a U.S. federal judge for his contribution to the global drug crisis.”

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

ROSENTHAL and his co-defendants—including Jaime Rolando Rosenthal Oliva, ROSENTHAL’s father and a former Vice President and congressman in Honduras—used entities associated with a holding company controlled by the Rosenthal family, Inversiones Continental (Panama), S.A. de C.V. (“Inversiones Continental”), to launder drug proceeds for 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 helped the Cachiros launder drug money and gain access to the international financial system through a variety of purported business ventures. ROSENTHAL enriched himself through this conduct based on fees paid by the drug traffickers he assisted, and by accepting additional bribes from drug traffickers that were styled as purported campaign contributions. Several aspects of the Cachiros money laundering scheme that ROSENTHAL participated in also received support from Fabio Porfirio Lobo, the son of a former President of Honduras. Lobo is scheduled to be sentenced on July 31, 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.

One component of ROSENTHAL’s money laundering conduct involved a trade-based scheme in which the Cachiros established a company, Ganaderos Agricultores Del Norte S De RL De CV (“Ganaderos”), and used drug proceeds to purchase cattle at auctions in Honduras. ROSENTHAL and others used Empacadora Continental, S.A. de C.V. (“Empacadora”), a cattle- and meat-processing firm affiliated with Inversiones Continental, to purchase the narcotics-derived cattle from Ganaderos. ROSENTHAL acted as the Vice President of Empacadora between 2008 and 2015, and these transactions were part of a process that allowed the Cachiros to conceal the criminally derived nature of the Ganaderos assets, and to obtain fresh funds from Empacadora that could be used to promote Cachiros drug-trafficking activities and purchase other assets. Empacadora, in turn, further obfuscated the tainted nature of Ganaderos cattle by processing and exporting the meat to the United States, among other places.

ROSENTHAL and others also used Banco Continental, S.A. (“Banco Continental”), a Honduran bank controlled by his family and affiliated with Inversiones Continental, to process payments related to these transactions and provide financing for other Cachiros activities. For example, Banco Continental issued purported loans to the leaders of the Cachiros, which were sometimes repaid using either drug proceeds or additional drug-derived cattle from Ganaderos. The leaders of the Cachiros used money from Banco Continental, commingled with drug money, to fund additional businesses that were also used as money laundering front companies. Banco Continental helped the leaders of the Cachiros establish the Joya Grande Zoo in Honduras, and purchase equipment for a construction company, Inmobiliaria Rivera Maradiaga SA de CV; a mining concern, Minera Mi Esperanza SA; and an African palm oil plantation, Palma Del Bajo Aguan SA.

In connection with his guilty plea, ROSENTHAL agreed to forfeit $500,000, and to pay a $2.5 million fine. ROSENTHAL also remains designated as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, along with Rosenthal Oliva, Yankel Antonio Rosenthal Coello (ROSENTHAL’s cousin and co-defendant), Inversiones Continental, Empacadora, and Banco Continental, among other entities, as announced in October 2015 by the United States Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”).

* * *

ROSENTHAL, 52, 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 sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge. Sentencing is scheduled for October 13, 2017 before Judge 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 and Yankel Antonio Rosenthal Coello are merely accusations, and Rosenthal Oliva and Rosenthal Coello are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

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

Updated July 26, 2017

Press Release Number: 17-230