February 6, 2018 / 11:23 PM / 10 months ago

Ex-Honduras police officer gets five years prison in U.S. drug case

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former Honduran police officer was sentenced to five years in prison on Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to conspiring to import cocaine into the United States.

Victor Oswaldo Lopez Flores, 45, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield in Manhattan. The judge said the sentence was the minimum allowed under federal law.

“It makes me very sad and it is very difficult for me to be standing on this side of the law,” Lopez Flores said in court before he was sentenced. “I am very sorry for having committed this action.”

Lopez Flores was one of six members of the Honduran National Police who were indicted on U.S. drug charges in July 2016. Two of the others, Mario Guillermo Mejia Vargas and Carlos Jose Zavala Velasquez, have also pleaded guilty, but have not yet been sentenced.

Lopez Flores pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy in April 2017. He admitted that in 2014, he met with two people representing themselves as Mexican drug traffickers and showed them a map of possible police checkpoints on a road in Honduras in order to help them transport cocaine.

Prosecutors have said that Lopez Flores was promised about $100,000 for his assistance, and that the two purported drug traffickers were in fact undercover informants working for U.S. authorities.

The case is one of several drug-related prosecutions in New York targeting officials and others 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 and accused of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States with the police officers. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 24 years in prison in September.

Yani Rosenthal, a former Honduran legislator who twice ran for president, and his cousin Yankel Rosenthal, a former minister of investment, also received prison time for drug-related charges. The Rosenthal family owns Honduras’ Grupo Continental conglomerate.

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

Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Susan Thomas

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