Honduran National Police Officer Sentenced To 12 Years In Prison For Conspiring To Import Cocaine Into The United States
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Raymond Donovan, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Special Operations Division, announced that Carlos Jose Zavala Velasquez, a former high-ranking member of the Honduran National Police, was sentenced yesterday to 12 years in prison for conspiring to import cocaine into the United States. VELASQUEZ previously pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield, who imposed yesterday’s sentence.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Carlos Jose Zavala Velasquez was a high-ranking Honduran police official who betrayed his duty and sold his office and sensitive law enforcement information to drug traffickers. Velasquez assisted a major trafficking organization and its leader by tipping them off about investigations and even accompanying them during a shipment of cocaine. Now he has been sentenced for his crimes.”
Special Agent in Charge Raymond Donovan said: “Any corrupt law enforcement official who contributes to instability and drug-related violence around the world deserves American justice and that is what Mr. Velasquez will get. Velasquez helped facilitate huge cocaine shipments bound for the United States and elsewhere and was a key facilitator for a significant Honduran drug trafficking and criminal network. DEA is pleased at the result of this investigation and we will continue to pursue and attack those who threaten the United States and do damage to countless lives, families, and communities.”
According to the Information, other court filings, and statements made during court proceedings:
From approximately 1991 through 2016, VELASQUEZ served as a member of the Honduran National Police, holding positions including, among others, second in command to the Chief of Police for the city San Pedro Sula; Chief of Police for the city Villanueva; Chief of Regional Special Services, a position responsible for investigations into organized crime; and the officer in charge of the “COBRAs” in San Pedro Sula, a commando-style unit dedicated to combatting organized crime. Between at least approximately 2009 and 2012, VELASQUEZ facilitated the drug trafficking activities of an organization operated by one of the most significant drug traffickers in Central America, Hector Emilio Fernandez Rosa, a/k/a “Don H.” On numerous occasions, and while VELASQUEZ was purportedly responsible for investigating Fernandez Rosa, VELASQUEZ provided information to Fernandez Rosa’s organization regarding ongoing law enforcement investigations so that the traffickers could plan transportation routes through Honduras for large loads of cocaine. On at least one occasion, VELASQUEZ accompanied members of the drug trafficking organization during the transportation of a load of cocaine. VELASQUEZ was paid between $5,000 and $20,000 each time he assisted the organization.
Six other former members of the Honduran National Police, including Mario Guillermo Mejia Vargas, Victor Oswaldo Lopez Flores, Ludwig Criss Zelaya Romero, Juan Manuel Avila Meza, and Carlos Alberto Valladares, are also charged in this case with firearms and/or drug trafficking offenses relating to a separate conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States. Each of those individuals has pled guilty in federal court, along with co-conspirator Fabio Porfirio Lobo. On September 5, 2017, Lobo was sentenced to 24 years in prison, and on February 6, 2018, Flores was sentenced to five years in prison. The remaining defendants await sentencing by Judge Schofield.
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In addition to the prison term, VELASQUEZ, 46, was sentenced to three years of supervised release.
Mr. Berman praised the outstanding efforts of the Special Operations Division of the DEA Bilateral Investigations Unit, New York Strike Force, and Tegucigalpa Country Office. Mr. Berman also thanked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs for their ongoing assistance.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emil J. Bove III and Matthew Laroche are in charge of the prosecution.