WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two brothers believed to be leaders of one of the most prolific cocaine-trafficking organizations in Central America were charged in a massive drug conspiracy case unsealed Friday in U.S. federal district court in Alexandria, Virginia.
In the indictment, Miguel Arnulfo Valle Valle, 42, and Luis Alonso Valle Valle, 45, both of Honduras, were accused of directing the Valle drug-trafficking organization, which federal authorities say moved tons of cocaine into the United States, netting millions of dollars. The indictment says the brothers’ organization maintained an “arsenal of firearms,” influenced public officials in Honduras, and used kidnapping and murder to advance their financial interests.
The 21-page indictment alleges that the Valle organization was a major player in a drug trade that generally moves cocaine from Colombia to Honduras to the United States. The organization, according to the indictment, was based in the northwest part of Honduras near the border with Guatemala, but it was able to ship drugs all over the United States — including Arizona, Illinois, Texas and Virginia.
Federal authorities intercepted at least one shipment of cocaine, which a courier had taken on a flight from Honduras to Dulles International Airport, according to the indictment.
Miguel Arnulfo Valle Valle, according to the indictment, managed the day-to-day operations, and Luis Alonso Valle Valle served as his second-in-command. The indictment also lists more than a dozen other people, including another Valle Valle brother and other family members, who are accused of importing, distributing or transporting cocaine.
The Valle, or Los Valles, drug trafficking organization has long been on the radar of federal authorities, who allege that it employs the brutal tactics for which Latin American drug cartels have become infamous.
In August, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control effectively banned U.S. citizens from doing business with the three Valle Valle brothers and their organization and froze any assets they had under U.S. control. The Treasury also sanctioned four Honduran businesses with ties to the brothers.
The brothers were arrested in Honduras on Oct. 5 and extradited Thursday to Florida, where they face drug charges similar to those in Virginia. They appeared Friday in federal district court in Alexandria.
The indictment accuses the group of at least one killing: Miguel Arnulfo Valle Valle is said to have “orchestrated the murder” of José Cristián Espinosa Erazo, who was believed to be a drug-trafficking rival, in March 2014 in Honduras. The indictment also accuses Miguel Arnulfo Valle Valle of telling his top lieutenant that three people who drove through Valle territory in a pickup needed to be killed, although it is unclear if that directive was followed.
In recent years, federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia have targeted international drug suppliers in an effort to stem the flow of narcotics into the United States, often working with authorities overseas to make sure the suspects stand trial in U.S. courts. Like the Valle brothers, those they charge are often high-ranking members of sophisticated organizations that deal in massive quantities of cocaine, heroin and even pseudoephedrine — which is used to make methamphetamine.
In 2011, for example, federal prosecutors in Alexandria charged Jairo Cardona — a Colombian associate of the Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán — with conspiring to distribute cocaine. He pleaded guilty in the case earlier this year and was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison.
In a news release, U.S. Attorney Dana Boente thanked the Honduran government for its cooperation and assistance in the case. Andrew McCabe, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said the arrests and extradition marked “a major step in the international cooperation to combat international narcotics traffickers.”
Recommended: How do ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán’s kids live? Follow them on Twitter
© 2014, The Washington Post