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Press Release

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Charges Against Four Prominent Honduran Businessmen For Laundering The Proceeds Of Narcotics And Bribery Offenses Through Accounts Located In The United States

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York
One defendant arrested yesterday in Miami, Florida

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Mark Hamlet, the Special Agent in Charge of the Special Operations Division of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), announced today that Honduran bankers JAIME ROLANDO ROSENTHAL OLIVA, YANI BENJAMIN ROSENTHAL HIDALGO, YANKEL ROSENTHAL COELLO, and ANDRES ACOSTA GARCIA were charged in connection with a multi-year scheme to launder the proceeds of narcotics trafficking offenses and foreign bribery offenses through accounts located in the United States.  ROSENTHAL COELLO was arrested last night in Miami, Florida, and will appear this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Chris M. McAliley in Miami federal court.  The remaining three defendants are at large.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:  “As alleged, Yankel Rosenthal Coello and his co-defendants used the banking system and their businesses to launder proceeds of narcotics trafficked to the U.S.  Thanks to the outstanding investigative work of the DEA, these alleged criminals now face U.S. charges.”

In a separate action today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) designated ROSENTHAL OLIVA, ROSENTHAL HIDALGO, and ROSENTHAL COELLO as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (“Kingpin Act”) for playing a significant role in international narcotics trafficking.  OFAC also designated several of the businesses associated with the defendants as Specially Designated Nationals under the Kingpin Act, including Inversiones Continental (Panama), S.A. de C.V., known as Grupo Continental, the parent company of a conglomerate of businesses in Honduras involved in banking, financial services, real estate, agriculture, construction, tourism, and media; Grupo Continental’s agricultural arm, Empacadora Continental S.A de C.V. (now known as Alimentos Continental); Inversiones Continental, S.A. (a.k.a. Grupo Financiero Continental); and the Honduran bank Banco Continental S.A.

According to the allegations in the Indictment,[1] which was previously unsealed in Manhattan federal court, the defendants conspired with others from 2004 through September 2015 to commit money laundering offenses in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1956 and 1957.  Specifically, the Indictment charges the defendants with conspiring to conduct financial transactions occurring in whole or in part in the United States and involving the proceeds of (i) narcotics offenses and (ii) offenses against a foreign nation involving bribery of public officials and the misappropriation, theft, or embezzlement of public funds.

ROSENTHAL COELLO, 46, ROSENTHAL OLIVA, 79, ROSENTHAL HIDALGO, 50, and ACOSTA GARCIA, 40, all of Honduras, are each charged with one count of money laundering, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentence will be determined by a judge.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the DEA’s Special Operations Division, New York Strike Force, and New York Task Force.  Mr. Bharara also thanked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, OFAC, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, and the United States Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network for their ongoing assistance.

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

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. 

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

Updated October 7, 2015

Press Release Number: 15-259