Second Honduran congressman charged in U.S. with drug traffic…

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. prosecutors on Tuesday announced criminal charges against Midence Oqueli Martinez Turcios, a Honduran congressman, accusing him of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States as a member of the Cachiros drug trafficking organization.

Martinez Turcios is the second Honduran congressman, and the latest in a series of current and former officials of the Central American country, to be indicted on drug trafficking charges in New York federal court.

Prosecutors also announced related charges against three other people, including Arnaldo Urbina Soto, a former mayor of the city of Yoro.

The defendants, who are not in custody, could not immediately be reached for comment. Authorities said they would seek their extradition to the United States.

Prosecutors said that from 2004 to 2014, Martinez Turcios and Urbina Soto leant their support to multiple drug trafficking organizations in Honduras as they moved hundred-kilogram loads of cocaine through the country from Venezuela, Colombia and elsewhere.

They said Martinez Turcios belonged to the Cachiros, and received more than $1 million in bribes from leaders of the organization. They said he personally escorted cocaine shipments for the group and took part in weapons training for paid assassins the Cachiros recruited from the gang MS-13.

Prosecutors also said that Urbina Soto and two others helped oversee the transport of illicit drugs.

Martinez Turcios, 57, and Urbina Soto, 37, could face life in prison if they are convicted of the most serious charges, prosecutors said.

The new charges come about six months after U.S. prosecutors charged another Honduran congressman, Fredy Renan Najera Montoya, with conspiring to import cocaine. He is not in U.S. custody.

Several other prominent Hondurans have been charged in the United States with involvement in drug trafficking.

Fabio Lobo was arrested in a Drug Enforcement Administration sting in 2015, pleaded guilty to conspiring to import cocaine into the United States and was sentenced to 24 years in prison in September.

Yankel Rosenthal, who served as minister of investment under current President Juan Orlando Hernandez, was sentenced to two years and five months in prison in January after he pleaded guilty to attempting to launder drug proceeds on behalf of a Honduran lawyer.

Rosenthal’s cousin, Yani Rosenthal, was previously sentenced to three years, and his father, former Honduran Vice President Jaime Rosenthal, was charged but remains at large.

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