Son of ex-Honduran president gets 24 years for U.S. drug charge

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The son of former Honduran President Porfirio Lobo was sentenced to 24 years in prison on Tuesday after pleading guilty to a U.S. charge of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States.

Fabio Lobo, 46, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield in Manhattan federal court. He had pleaded guilty in May 2016, about a year after he was arrested in Haiti in a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sting.

Lobo’s father was elected president of Honduras in late 2009 after a military coup ousted then-President Manuel Zelaya. Porfirio Lobo left office in January 2014, when current president Juan Orlando Hernandez took office.

Before being sentenced, Lobo tearfully apologized to his wife, three daughters and other family members, some of whom were sitting in the courtroom.

“I want to apologize to the government of the United States,” he said. “I apologize to the people of Honduras, to my mother and especially to my father, who has nothing to do with this.”

Lobo asked Schofield to sentence him to ten years, the minimum allowed under the law. Prosecutors had sought at least 30 years.

Prosecutors said that in 2014, Lobo agreed to help two DEA agents posing as Mexican drug traffickers transport multiple tons of cocaine through Honduras so it could eventually reach the United States.

They said Lobo hoped to profit personally from facilitating drug trafficking through the notoriously violent Central American country, which has long served as a major transshipment point for U.S.-bound cocaine smuggled out of South America.

At a hearing in March, the former leader of a Honduran drug trafficking organization called Los Cachiros who is now cooperating with prosecutors, Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, testified that he bribed Lobo and his father for favorable treatment, court records show.

Other prominent Honduran business leaders and politicians have been charged in the United States with drug-related crimes, including Yani and Yankel Rosenthal, cousins who have both served in the nation’s cabinet. Yani Rosenthal pleaded guilty to money laundering in July, and Yankel Rosenthal to attempted money laundering last week.

Yani Rosenthal’s father, former Honduran Vice President Jaime Rosenthal, was also charged and remains at large.

Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay