Accused of smuggling cocaine into the United States, the former chief of the Honduran National Police was recently indicted on conspiracy and weapon charges in U.S. federal court. According to court documents, the former police chief colluded with the current president of Honduras and his brother, a former Honduran congressman who was convicted in Manhattan federal court last year.
Between 1985 and 2016, Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares was a member of the Honduran National Police and held several high-ranking positions, including Regional Police Chief with authority over locations in western Honduras that were strategically important to drug traffickers, and Chief of the Honduran National Police for all of Honduras from approximately 2012 to 2013. He allegedly exploited these official positions to facilitate cocaine trafficking, and used violence, including murder, to protect the particular cell of politically connected drug traffickers he aligned with, including President Hernandez Alvarado and at least one of Hernandez Alvarado’s brothers, who is a former Honduran congressman.
In exchange for bribes paid in drug proceeds, Bonilla reportedly directed members of the Honduran National Police, who were armed with machineguns, to let cocaine shipments pass through police checkpoints without being inspected or seized. He also allegedly participated in the murder of a rival drug trafficker in July 2011 at the request of Hernandez Alvarado and others.
In October 2019, former Honduran congressman Tony Hernandez, brother of the current Honduran president, was convicted in Manhattan federal court of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, using and carrying machine guns during, and possessing machine guns in furtherance of, the cocaine-importation conspiracy, conspiring to use and carry machine guns during, and to possess machine guns in furtherance of, the cocaine-importation conspiracy, and making false statements to federal agents.
Accused of being a co-conspirator in Tony Hernandez’s drug-trafficking scheme, Bonilla was charged last week with conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, using and carrying machine guns and destructive devices during and in relation to, and possessing machine guns and destructive devices in furtherance of, the cocaine importation conspiracy, and conspiring to use and carry machine guns and destructive devices during and in relation to, and to possess machine guns and destructive devices in furtherance of, the cocaine importation conspiracy.
“Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares, the former chief of the Honduran National Police, allegedly abused his positions in Honduran law enforcement to flout the law and play a key role in a violent international drug trafficking conspiracy,” stated Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. “As alleged, on behalf of convicted former Honduran congressman Tony Hernandez and his brother the president, Bonilla Valladares oversaw the transshipment of multi-ton loads of cocaine bound for the U.S., used machineguns and other weaponry to accomplish that, and participated in extreme violence, including the murder of a rival trafficker, to further the conspiracy. Now Bonilla Valladares has been marked as an outlaw and charged with crimes that could send him to a U.S. prison for life.”
“Juan Carlos Bonilla-Valladares allegedly used his high ranking position to influence those working for him and violently protect the politically connected drug traffickers who would smuggle cocaine destined for the United States,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Wendy Woolcock. “As alleged, this was a blatant and horrific violation of the oath taken by Bonilla-Valladares to protect the citizens of Honduras. The filing of these charges is another positive action taken by the United States to bring corrupt officials to justice.”
If convicted, the former police chief faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum term of life in prison on Count One, a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison and a maximum term of life in prison on Count Two, and a maximum term of life in prison on Count Three. Bonilla’s extraction to the U.S. currently appears doubtful due to the Honduran president’s alleged involvement in the conspiracy with his brother and Bonilla.