HomeNewsAnalysisWhat an Extortion Call in Honduras Sounds Like
ANALYSIS

What an Extortion Call in Honduras Sounds Like

EXTORTION / 4 MAR 2015 BY KYRA GURNEY EN

A chilling phone call highlights some of the techniques that criminals in Honduras use to extort their victims, underscoring the ways in which extortion gangs take advantage of the country's precarious security situation to instill fear. 

In the recording of an extortion call obtained by the Honduran media, a man who identifies himself as "Mafia," the leader of a gang with the same name, demands that the owners of a bus company pay him around $4,760 and a weekly "war tax."

"If not," the criminal states, "we are going to have it out with the owners of the buses and we're going to burn them alive."

During the call, "Mafia" tells the victim to meet him the following day at 11 a.m. and warns him not to contact the police or turn off his cellphone. He then describes threats the gang carried out in two of Tegucigalpa's most violent neighborhoods, La Torre and Flor de Campo.

"We charged [another bus company] rent in Flor de Campo and we killed one of them because they didn't believe us at the beginning. So if you don't believe us, listen to me closely, because later I'm going to make you listen…if you don't believe us the same thing is going to happen to you as happened in La Torre and Flor de Campo with me, get it?"

The extortionist then passes the phone to a man he identifies as his gunman, who also threatens the victim.

"If you don't cooperate with us there will be a death tomorrow, do you understand?" the assassin says. "You have to take what Mafia said seriously because Mafia only has to say the word [to have you killed]. Are you listening to me?"

"Because I'm going to take care of you… [and] blow your brains out," he adds.

The gunman then passes the phone back to "Mafia" and the victim asks "Mafia" if he can pay half of the extortion fee because he won't be able to get all of the money together by the following day.

"Look," the extortionist says. "It works like this. Here the gang has rules. I'm not going to let you pay half but we are going to help you, you are only going to give us 80,000 lempiras [around $3,800 dollars]."

In a final effort, the victim asks if he can make the payment in two installments, to which the caller simply replies: "You are not going to pay it in two payments."

InSight Crime Analysis

The phone call illustrates the types of threats that criminals use to extort victims in Honduras, providing insight into a crime that forces thousands of businesses to close every year and serves as a major driver of violence in a country that has become one of the most violent on the planet.

The caller heard in the recording appears to be a member of an extortion gang known as La Mafia, which targeted the transportation sector and operated from prison with the help of accomplices on the outside. Honduras' National Anti-Extortion Force (FNA) has identified the caller in the recording as Orlin Javier Alvarado Peralta, alias "Mafia," the leader of the group. The extortion gang has since been disbanded, thanks in part to a victim who reported the crime, and Alvarado Peralta has been moved to a maximum-security prison, according to La Tribuna.

However, victims are often reluctant to report extortion to police. As evidenced by the recording, whoever receives such a phone call is working with little information at every stage of the conversation, putting the recipient of the call at a severe disadvantage. In the recording, the extortionist could be telling the truth about the recent attack on another bus company; or he could simply be using an event that he saw in the news to his advantage. The victim may never know. There are very frequent attacks on buses, taxis, and other transport companies in Honduras (as in Guatemala, where over 400 people died in such attacks last year), but it is hard to know who is responsible for these attacks as few are investigated. 

As heard in the recording, the transportation sector is a major target for extortion in Honduras, earning criminal groups an estimated $27 million dollars a year. Between 2012 and 2014, 153 taxi drivers were murdered in cases that appeared to be linked to extortion, along with 32 passengers. Bus companies are also frequent targets, with extortion reaching such high levels in some areas of capital city Tegucigalpa that drivers have been forced to suspend bus routes.

SEE ALSO: Honduras News and Profiles

Although extortion is the principal source of revenue for the country's powerful street gangs -- the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18 -- the crime is also carried out by corrupt police officers, and common criminals posing as gang members. According to Honduras' National Anti-Extortion Force, as many as 70 percent of extortions are carried out by common criminals, rather than violent gangs, making it difficult, if not impossible, to discern between real threats and posers.

The deterioration of the Honduras' security situation has been rapid and widespread. Victims of extortion frequently have cash on hand, operate in dangerous areas, lack protection, and have little information on which to base their decision when it comes to paying up or ignoring the call. Extortionists, as evident above, count on an uninformed public to ply their trade. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

HONDURAS / 2 MAR 2016

An ongoing security operation against the Mara Salvatrucha in Honduras has uncovered evidence that suggests the street gang is becoming…

EXTORTION / 2 MAR 2014

A report by Mexico's National Citizen Observatory reveals that extortion has grown nine-fold over the last 17 years, underscoring a…

HONDURAS / 10 MAY 2014

The massacre of 68 inmates of a prison in Honduras by security forces in 2003 shocked even a country accustomed…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.