El Salvador's attorney general has formally accused a leader of the country's notorious Perrones drug trafficking organization of laundering over $3 million, although the country's past record on cases involving the group suggests he could yet evade prison.
According to a press release published by El Salvador's Attorney General's Office, Daniel Quezada Fernandez -- one of the Perrones' founding members -- and four associates, including his wife, have been accused of laundering the funds as part of their involvement with the drug trafficking organization.
SEE ALSO: Perrones Profile
According to La Prensa Grafica, Quezada was arrested on November 29 for money laundering, but the AG's Office at the time refused to provide details on the case. Prosecutors have now appeared in court to formally charge him and his associates, based on evidence compiled since 2010, and have asked for warrants to search property and seize documents connected to the case.
Quezada escaped a prison term in 2011 after illegal weapons possession charges against him were dropped and a three-year sentence for drug possession was substituted for community service. He has previously been accused of running a network of hotels used to launder drug proceeds, but authorities have failed to impose any sort of significant punishment on him.
InSight Crime Analysis
If a money laundering charge sticks to Quezada and he goes to prison, it will represent a coup for prosecutors who have struggled to bring the Perrones leadership structure to justice. Salvadoran security forces have been accused of sitting on key evidence and failing to pursue effective investigations, particularly regarding links between the group and Mexican cartels, which the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) highlighted in a report earlier this year.
In 2009, many of the structure's leaders were arrested for drug trafficking, human smuggling and money laundering, and some believed the Perrones had been damaged beyond recovery. However, the cases unraveled and the arrested men walked free, received sentences that did not involve prison, or were charged for lesser crimes.
Even if Quezada and other founding members were to face justice, it would not likely be the death knell of the organization. The group has apparently rallied since 2009, purging those perceived as disloyal. With its tentacles now reportedly extending throughout the isthmus and further afield, the structure is likely strong enough to fill vacated leadership positions.