UNITED STATES ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
Southern District of New York
ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY JOON H. KIM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Jim Margolin, Dawn Dearden, Nicholas Biase
Yani Benjamin Rosenthal Hidalgo, a Former Honduran Politician and Prominent Businessman, Was Sentenced for Laundering Drug Proceeds for the Cachiros, a Major Honduran Drug Trafficking Organization.
Rosenthal Hidalgo’s Sentence also Includes a Total of $3 Million in Financial Penalties.
Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that YANI BENJAMIN ROSENTHAL HIDALGO was sentenced to 36 months in prison for engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from drug trafficking offenses. ROSENTHAL pled guilty on July 26, 2017, before U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl, who imposed today’s sentence. During the course of the money laundering scheme, ROSENTHAL was a Honduran congressman between 2010 and 2014, and a candidate for president of Honduras between 2012 and 2013.
Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “As he previously admitted in court, Yani Rosenthal was a prominent Honduran politician and businessman who moonlighted as a money launderer for the Cachiros, a violent Honduran drug organization. Now this former presidential candidate has received a prison sentence called for by his crimes committed on behalf of a ruthless criminal syndicate.”
According to the Indictment, other court filings, and statements made during court proceedings1:
ROSENTHAL and his co-defendants – including Jaime Rolando Rosenthal Oliva, ROSENTHAL’s father and a former vice president and congressman in Honduras – used entities associated with a holding company controlled by the Rosenthal family, Inversiones Continental (Panama), S.A. de C.V. (“Inversiones Continental”), to launder drug proceeds for the Cachiros, a prolific and violent Honduran criminal syndicate that distributed huge quantities of cocaine before being dismantled by the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”). Through his conduct, which occurred over a period of at least approximately five years, ROSENTHAL provided the Cachiros with sources of funding for their criminal enterprise, a means to launder their narcotics proceeds, and public legitimacy, thereby contributing to an environment of impunity that allowed the Cachiros to thrive in Honduras and to import tons of cocaine into the United States.
ROSENTHAL and his co-defendants helped the Cachiros launder drug money and gain access to the international financial system. ROSENTHAL enriched himself through this conduct by profiting from business transactions with the Cachiros. In 2012, while ROSENTHAL acted as a Honduran congressman and campaigned for the Honduran presidency, he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug proceeds from one of the leaders of the Cachiros and another major Honduran drug trafficker who led a separate drug trafficking organization, which were styled as purported campaign contributions. Several aspects of the Cachiros money laundering scheme also received support from Fabio Porfirio Lobo, the son of a former president of Honduras. Lobo was sentenced on September 5, 2017, by U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield in United States v. Lobo, No. 15 Cr. 174 (LGS) to 24 years in prison based on his conviction for participating in a conspiracy with members of the Cachiros and others to import cocaine into the United States.
ROSENTHAL’s money laundering conduct involved a trade-based scheme in which the Cachiros used a front company, Ganaderos Agricultores Del Norte S De RL De CV (“Ganaderos”), to purchase cattle with drug proceeds at auctions in Honduras. ROSENTHAL and others used Empacadora Continental, S.A. de C.V. (“Empacadora”), a cattle- and meat-processing firm affiliated with Inversiones Continental, to purchase the narcotics-derived cattle from Ganaderos. Between 2008 and 2013, while Rosenthal acted as the vice president of Empacadora, he caused Empacadora to buy cattle from Ganaderos, knowing that Ganaderos was financed and supported by drug trafficking proceeds of the Cachiros. By knowingly authorizing Empacadora to engage in transactions in criminally derived property, ROSENTHAL used the company in connection with a process that allowed the Cachiros to conceal the criminally derived nature of the Ganaderos assets, and to obtain fresh funds from Empacadora that were used to promote Cachiros drug trafficking activities and purchase other assets. Empacadora, in turn, processed and exported the meat to the United States, among other places, in exchange for payments to Empacadora from U.S.-based companies that totaled approximately $500,000 between 2008 and 2013. Over that same period, Empacadora paid a total of $6.8 million to Ganaderos in connection with the scheme.
In addition to the prison term, ROSENTHAL, 52, was ordered to forfeit $500,000 and to pay a $2.5 million fine. ROSENTHAL also remains designated as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, along with Rosenthal Oliva, Yankel Antonio Rosenthal Coello (ROSENTHAL’s cousin and co-defendant), Inversiones Continental, Empacadora, and Banco Continental, among other entities, as announced in October 2015 by the U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”).
Mr. Kim praised the outstanding efforts of the DEA’s Special Operations Division Bilateral Investigations Unit, New York Strike Force, and Tegucigalpa Country Office, as well as OFAC and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs.
This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emil J. Bove III, Matthew J. Laroche, and Jane Kim are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictment against Jaime Rolando Rosenthal Oliva are merely accusations, and Rosenthal Oliva is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
1 The descriptions set forth below of conduct by co-defendant Jaime Rolando Rosenthal Oliva constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation with respect to Rosenthal Oliva.