Honduran Congressman Pleads Guilty To Conspiring To Import Cocaine Into The United States And Possessing Machineguns And Destructive Devices
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that FREDY RENAN NAJERA MONTOYA pled guilty yesterday in Manhattan federal court to charges that he conspired to import cocaine into the United States and possessed machineguns and destructive devices during the course of that conspiracy. NAJERA, who arrived in the United States on March 14, 2018, pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe. NAJERA served in the National Congress of Honduras from 2006 until he arrived in the United States for prosecution. NAJERA pled guilty to charges carrying a mandatory minimum sentence of 40 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for April 19, 2019.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “As he has now admitted in a United States courthouse, Fredy Renan Najera Montoya used his power and influence as a Honduran congressman to facilitate the transporting of massive amounts of cocaine from Colombia through Honduras, and ultimately to the streets of the U.S. He further admitted that he and his hired security teams used military-grade weapons, including machineguns, to protect the drug smuggling enterprise. Now, Najera awaits sentencing for the serious crimes to which he has pled.”
According to the Superseding Indictment, other court filings, and statements made during court proceedings:
From at least in or about 2008, up to and including in or about 2015, NAJERA abused his position as a Honduran congressman to lead large-scale and violent drug-trafficking activities in the same part of Honduras that he represented in his government position. NAJERA helped distribute more than 30 metric tons of cocaine, which NAJERA and his co-conspirators received in Honduras through a variety of means and ultimately imported into the United States. As part of these activities, NAJERA used, and employed security teams who used, military-grade weapons, including machineguns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
Between approximately 2008 and 2015, NAJERA constructed, maintained, and staffed clandestine airstrips in Olancho that were used to receive multi-hundred-kilogram shipments of cocaine sent from Venezuela to Honduras. NAJERA facilitated the receipt of cocaine-laden planes and helicopters at his airstrips, and coordinated the transportation of the cocaine westward in Honduras so that it could be imported into the United States. NAJERA employed heavily armed security personnel who participated in all aspects of the receipt and transportation of these shipments. NAJERA also cultivated criminal relationships with members of the Honduran National Police and the Honduran military in order to support his drug-trafficking activities by obtaining sensitive law enforcement information used by traffickers to avoid arrests and to plan transportation routes for U.S.-bound cocaine.
In 2009, NAJERA worked with narcotics trafficker Sergio Neftalí Mejía Duarte and Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, one the leaders of the violent Cachiros drug-trafficking organization, to hire members of the Honduran National Police to assassinate General Julian Arístides González. Around that time, General Arístides González began investigating NAJERA and other drug traffickers in Honduras following a cocaine plane shipment to Olancho that drew law enforcement attention. In retaliation, Mejía Duarte, on behalf of NAJERA, contacted other drug traffickers, including Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, and requested that they assist in killing General Arístides González in order to stop the investigation and other similar investigations. Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, in turn, recruited members of the Honduran National Police to carry out the murder.
Shortly after the murder, NAJERA and Mejía Duarte met with Leonel Rivera Maradiaga. During that meeting, NAJERA told Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, in substance, that Leonel Rivera Maradiaga had done a good job killing General Arístides González. Mejía Duarte also congratulated Leonel Rivera Maradiaga for arranging the murder. NAJERA and Mejía Duarte then presented Leonel Rivera Maradiaga with the money to pay the assassins, in the form of approximately $300,000 in cash that they had laid out on a table nearby.
In 2012, NAJERA also introduced members of the Sinaloa Cartel to Honduran officials who provided nearly unfettered access to a major commercial shipping hub in Puerto Cortés, Honduras. In connection with these efforts, NAJERA accepted at least one cash payment and helped broker additional bribes paid to Fabio Lobo, the son of the former Honduran President, and others. The Sinaloa Cartel relied on NAJERA’s connections to transport approximately 10 tons of cocaine through Puerto Cortés.
In 2013 and 2014, NAJERA was part of a group of current and former Honduran congressmen who worked with other drug traffickers in an effort to obtain political support and protection from other high-ranking Honduran officials. One of the group’s objectives was to install a Cachiros associate as the leader of the Honduran Congress to promote trafficker-friendly policies, including with respect to extradition.
Some of NAJERA’s co-conspirators have already been sentenced. In May 2018, Mejía Duarte was sentenced in the Southern District of Florida to life in prison for conspiring to import cocaine into the United States. In September 2017, Lobo was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield to 24 years in prison for conspiring to import cocaine into the United States.
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NAJERA, 41, pled guilty to one count of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, and to one count of possessing machineguns and destructive devices during the course of that conspiracy. Count One carries a maximum term of life in prison and a mandatory minimum term of ten years in prison. Count Two carries a maximum term of life in prison and a mandatory minimum of 30 years in prison, which must be served consecutive to any other term of imprisonment. The minimum and maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of NAJERA will be determined by Judge Gardephe.
Mr. Berman praised the outstanding efforts of the Bilateral Investigations Unit of the Special Operations Division of the DEA, New York Strike Force, and Tegucigalpa Country Office.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emil J. Bove III and Matthew J. Laroche are in charge of the prosecution.