By Anand Vasu
Tony Hernández, a former Honduran Congressman, was sentenced to life in prison and ordered to forfeit $138.5 million for distributing 185 tons of cocaine, and related firearms and false statements offenses.
Over a 15-year-period, Hernández played a leadership role in a violent, state-sponsored drug trafficking conspiracy, the Justice Department said. Hernández manufactured and distributed at least 185,000 kilograms of cocaine that was imported into the United States.
Hernández is a former Honduran congressman and the brother of Juan Orlando Hernández, the current president of Honduras. He was convicted on Oct. 18, 2019, following a jury trial before U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel, who also imposed the sentence on March 30.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “Former Honduran congressman Juan Antonio Hernández Alvarado was involved in all stages of the trafficking through Honduras of multi-ton loads of cocaine destined for the U.S. Hernández bribed law enforcement officials to protect drug shipments, arranged for heavily armed security for cocaine shipments, and brokered large bribes from major drug traffickers to powerful political figures, including the former and current presidents of Honduras. Hernández was complicit in at least two murders. Today, Tony Hernández was rightly sentenced to life in prison.”
Hernández commanded heavily armed members of the Honduran military and Honduran National Police. He sold machineguns and ammunition to drug traffickers, some of which he obtained from the Honduran military.
He also controlled cocaine laboratories in Colombia and Honduras and secured millions of dollars of drug proceeds for Honduras’s National Party campaigns in connection with presidential elections in 2009, 2013, and 2017.
His drug trafficking career started in 2004 when he began providing sensitive law enforcement and military information to major Honduran drug traffickers Victor Hugo Diaz Morales and Hector Emilio Fernandez Rosa.
The information he provided included details of operations of the Honduran Navy, efforts by the United States to train Honduran Air Force pilots to fly at night to conduct anti-narcotics operations; military radar capabilities so that cocaine plane shipments could avoid detection and interdiction efforts by certain Honduran National Police officials.
In this process, Hernández helped Rosa and Morales distribute nearly 140 tons of cocaine.
By 2008, Hernández’s narcotics trafficking had expanded, and he was also manufacturing his own cocaine in a laboratory he controlled near El Aceitico, Colombia.
Hernández told his co-conspirators that some of the cocaine manufactured at his laboratory was stamped with his initials “TH,” and a photograph of a kilogram of “TH” stamped cocaine was intercepted during the course of the investigation.
Testimony at trial established that Hernández and Ardon Soriano, a former Honduran drug trafficker and mayor, secured protection from investigation, arrest, and extradition through massive bribes paid to high-ranking politicians, including, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo Sosa and Juan Orlando Hernández.
Once or twice a month in 2010, Hernández sent Soriano cocaine shipments consisting of approximately 300 kilograms; and once a month in 2011 and 2012 shipments ranging in size from 700 to 1,600 kilograms.
In 2013, Hernández was campaigning to become a congressman and Juan Orlando Hernández was campaigning to become president. Around this time, according to testimony at trial, Juan Orlando Hernández solicited $1.6 million in drug proceeds from Soriano to support himself and National Party campaigns.
Also during the 2013 campaign, Hernández accepted $1 million from former Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, also known as “Chapo,” to support Juan Orlando Hernández’s presidential campaign.
In November 2013, Hernández was elected to the Honduran congress and Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president.
Between 2015 and 2017, per trial testimony, Hernández and Juan Orlando Hernández continued to secure large sums of drug proceeds for National Party campaigns in exchange for protecting drug traffickers.
In 2018, Hernández continued to engage in large cocaine shipments with Nery López Sanabria, another significant Honduran drug trafficker.
Honduran authorities arrested and detained López Sanabria in connection with a traffic incident and recovered, among other things, several drug ledgers in a secret compartment of his car.
One of the ledgers was labeled “Hard Work” 2018, and reflected a 650-kilogram cocaine shipment with Hernández.