You are here

Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Former Honduran National Police Officer Charged With Conspiring To Import Cocaine Into The United States And Related Firearms Offenses

Mauricio Hernandez Pineda Allegedly Conspired with his Cousin, Juan Antonio Hernandez Alvarado, a/k/a “Tony Hernandez,” and Others, to Import Multi-Ton Quantities of Cocaine into the United States

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Wendy Woolcock, Special Agent in Charge of the Special Operations Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), announced today that former Honduran National Police officer MAURICIO HERNANDEZ PINEDA (“HERNANDEZ PINEDA”) was charged in Manhattan federal court with conspiring to import cocaine into the United States and related weapons offenses involving the use and possession of machineguns and destructive devices.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel.   

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Today’s charges against a high-ranking former Honduran National Police officer are disturbing.  Honduras has long been a corridor for drug traffickers to ship their drugs to the United States from South America.  As alleged, Mauricio Hernandez Pineda betrayed his obligations as a police officer to uphold his country’s laws and prevent trafficking through his country, and instead facilitated the shipments of tons of cocaine that eventually made its way to the U.S.  Hernandez Pineda will soon have to answer for his alleged crimes in a U.S. court.”

DEA Special Agent in Charge Wendy Woolcock said:  “DEA continues to uncover corruption at the highest levels of government and law enforcement across the world, including Honduras.  This alleged criminal conspiracy involved huge amounts of cocaine trafficking into the United States.  DEA will continue to attack global criminal networks who pose a direct threat to our safety and security. We look forward to seeing Mr. Hernandez-Pineda, a former high-ranking Honduran National Police official, face justice in a U.S. courtroom.”    

As alleged in the Superseding Indictment unsealed in federal court:[1] 

From 2000 up to and including 2018, 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 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 official interference, and in order to facilitate the safe passage through Honduras of multi-hundred-kilogram loads of cocaine, drug traffickers paid bribes to public officials, including certain members of the National Congress of Honduras.

HERNANDEZ PINEDA is a former high-ranking member of the Honduran National Police who participated in and supported the drug trafficking activities of, among others, his cousin, Juan Antonio Hernandez Alvarado, also known as “Tony Hernandez.”  Among other things, HERNANDEZ PINEDA provided armed security, including individuals carrying machineguns, for multi-ton cocaine shipments sent through Honduras, and provided his co-conspirators with sensitive law enforcement information concerning planned operations so they could evade detection while transporting cocaine through Honduras.  In exchange, HERNANDEZ PINEDA received hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug proceeds.  

*                *                *

HERNANDEZ PINEDA, 47,  of Honduras, is charged with three counts:  (1) conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison; (2) using and carrying machine guns and destructive devices during, and possessing machine guns and destructive devices in furtherance of, the cocaine-importation conspiracy, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison; and (3) conspiring to use and carry machine guns and destructive devices during, and to possess machine guns and destructive devices in furtherance of, the cocaine importation conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.  

The potential mandatory minimum and maximum sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Berman 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 the Office of International Affairs of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emil J. Bove III, Amanda L. Houle, Mathew J. Laroche, and Jason A. Richman are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Superseding Indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. 

 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Superseding Indictment and the description of the Superseding Indictment set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses
Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 
19-284
Updated September 4, 2019