Thursday, December 29, 2016

Honduran Security Minister implicated in US Drug Trafficking Trial

Honduran Security Minister, retired General Julian Pacheco Tinoco, was implicated as being part of a Honduran government drug trafficking ring by a DEA informant according to testimony provided by US Federal Prosecutors at the trial of Efrain Campo Flores and Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas.

Efrain Campo Flores and Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas are the nephews of Venezuela's first lady, Cilia Flores.  They have been charged in federal court with conspiring (i) "to import five or more kilograms of cocaine into the United States from a foreign country", and (ii) "to manufacture or distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine knowing and intending that it would be imported into the United States."

The two defendants who were arrested in Haiti had sought to suppress some of their post arrest statements to the DEA and prosecutors.  Some of that evidence was about an October, 2015 meeting between a DEA informant, now deceased, identified as CW-1, and one of the nephews to discuss bringing planes with drugs into Honduras from Venezuela.  A DEA Special Agent, Sandalio Gonzalez, testified that CW-1 was unable to record the meeting, but provided photos showing the two Venezuelan nephews meeting with CW-1 and others.  Agent Gonzalez gave recording devices to two more DEA informants in Honduras, identified as CS-1 and CS-2 and urged them to travel to Venezuela to talk with the nephews and "to record all conversations, negotiations, and discussions of drug trafficking or money laundering".  CS-1 and CS-2 met with the nephews in Caracas, Venezuela, 4 times during October 2015.  A 3rd informant, CS-3 met with them in Honduras in November 2015 to discuss flight logistics and recorded that meeting.

Informant CW-1, known as "El Sentado" because he was confined to a wheel chair, was killed in Honduras in December 2015, shortly after the nephews were arrested.   Informant CS-1, José Santos Peña,  is known as "The Mexican" because he was posing as a representative of the Sinaloa Cartel.  Their co-defendant, Roberto Jesus Soto Garcia, a Honduran, was recorded negotiating the logistics of handling plane loads of cocaine in Honduras. 

Informant CS-1 is José Santos Peña, a Mexican drug trafficker who used to work for the Sinaloa cartel.  Informant CS-2 is his son.  In 2000 Santos Peña was arrested by Mexican authorities and turned over to the DEA, where he turned informant and was working from 2003 to 2016 for the DEA.  During the trial of Campo Flores and Flores de Freitas, Santos Peña testified that he had received around $750,000 from the DEA, and a further $300,000 from other agencies.  At one point, Informant CS-1 was asked during the trial about Julian Pacheco Tinoco:

Prosecutor:  In your work as a DEA informant did you meet with with someone called Julian Pacheco Tinoco?
CS-1:  Yes sir
Prosecutor: In what country did you know Mr. Pacheco Tinoco?
CS-1: In Honduras.
Prosecutor:  Do you know if he has a position in the Honduran Government?
CS-1: Yes sir
Prosecutor: What is that position?
CS-1:  Minister of Defense of Honduras
Prosecutor:  How did you know him?
[At this point the defense lawyer Randal Jackson objected, but the judge denied the objection]
Prosecutor:  How did you know him?
CS-1:  I knew him through the son of the ex president of Honduras, Fabio Lobo.
Prosecutor:  Were you meeting with Mr. Lobo as part of your work as a DEA informant?
CS-1:  Yes sir.
Prosecutor:  What was your meeting with Mr. Pacheco about?
CS-1: It was so that he could give me help to receive shipments from Colombia to Honduras.  He was in charge of a part of the security in Honduras.
Prosecutor:  What type of shipments?
CS-1:  Cocaine.

The Prosecution presented evidence that Campo Flores had deleted a chat session and contact information on his Samsung phone with Pacheco Tinoco. Informant CS-1 also admitted on the stand to lying to the DEA, not telling them about visits to prostitutes and continuing to traffic in cocaine for himself, for which he and his son were sentenced to life imprisonment.

On November 21, 2016, the two nephews were found guilty.

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