Honduran lawyer gets 14 months in U.S. money laundering case

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A Honduran lawyer who once worked for a company owned by a powerful political family in the Central American country was sentenced in Manhattan to 14 months in prison on Friday after he pleaded guilty to laundering drug money.

U.S. District Judge John Koeltl said Andres Acosta Garcia’s sentence, less than the 41 to 51 months sought by prosecutors, reflected the defendant’s “minor role in a very serious offense.”

Acosta Garcia, 42, and his lawyers had asked Koeltl for a sentence of time served – about two months – so that he could return to his family.

“Each day and night of this episode of suffering, they are waiting for me at home so we can continue our lives,” Acosta Garcia said in court before Koeltl sentenced him.

Acosta Garcia worked for Grupo Continental, a conglomerate owned by Honduras’ politically influential Rosenthal family, according to court filings. He admitted in August that while working there, he helped launder money from narcotics trafficking through beef sales to the United States.

Prosecutors have said the money was linked to the Cachiros, a Honduran drug trafficking ring.

Koeltl said at Friday’s sentencing hearing that Acosta Garcia never earned any extra money for his role in the money laundering, and the company ultimately laid him off.

Members of the Rosenthal family were also arrested and charged in the case.

Yani Rosenthal, a former Honduran legislator who twice ran for president, pleaded guilty to helping the Cachiros launder money through beef sales and was sentenced to three years in prison on Dec. 15.

His cousin Yankel Rosenthal, a former minister of investment, pleaded guilty to attempting to launder drug money through a real estate purchase in Florida and was sentenced to two years and five months in prison on Jan. 19.

Yani’s father, Jaime Rosenthal, was also charged, but remains at large.

The case is one of several drug-related prosecutions targeting prominent figures in Honduras, which U.S. authorities have long identified as a major transshipment point for drugs being smuggled into the United States.

Fabio Lobo, son of former Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, was arrested in 2015. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to import cocaine into the United States and was sentenced to 24 years in prison in September.

Prosecutors recently announced cocaine trafficking conspiracy charges against Honduran congressman Fredy Renan Najera Montoya, who is not in U.S. custody.