Authorities in Honduras have revealed in recent months million-dollar money laundering operations connected to the Cachiros, indicating that vestiges of the drug clan continue to operate in the country despite the group's demise.
On January 19, the nation's judiciary announced it had sentenced Celi Asmery Paso Galo, an associate of the Cachiros drug trafficking clan, to ten years in prison for his involvement in money laundering.
Between 2010 and 2015, Paso Galo conducted a series of financial transactions, including property transfers, on behalf of the clan's leaders, Javier Eriberto Rivera Maradiaga, alias “Javier Cachiro,” and his brother Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga. According to judicial officials, Paso Galo was unable to justify the origin of 10 million lempiras (around $415,000).
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Three other associates of the Cachiros were convicted alongside Paso Galo. Nixón Yadir Manzanares Murillo was sentenced to eight years in prison for money laundering. Dina Herenia Fúnez Lisser and Marla Ramona Nájera Rubí received five-year sentences for acting as frontmen.
The sentences came a month after the Attorney General’s Office reported authorities had carried out a series of raids across four departments -- Copán, Lempira, Cortés and Yoro -- targeting a money-laundering network linked to the Cachiros.
Between 2008 and 2018, the pair allegedly laundered money through front companies known as "Zapaton," as well as through the purchase of luxury properties and other goods, according to an Attorney General's Office news release.
The head of Honduras’ Anti-Narcotics Directorate (Dirección Nacional Policial Antidrogas — DNPA), Mario Molina Moncada, linked "Zapaton" to Los Cachiros and deceased drug trafficker Gustavo Chinchilla, La Prensa reported.
During the operation, authorities seized some 50 assets, including luxury homes and vehicles. For two years, investigators followed a suspicious trail of 200 million lempiras (just over $8.2 million).
InSight Crime Analysis
Though the brothers who headed the Cachiros drug clan are jailed in the United States, actors tied to the group are still present in money laundering and drug operations, albeit on a much smaller scale.
The cells effectively are the last vestiges of the Cachiros name after the group's demise.
Starting as a family of small-time cattle rustlers, the Cachiros became one of Honduras’ largest transport groups, with a net worth close to $1 billion. They supplied cocaine and other drugs to Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel and had ties to the Colombian criminal organization the Rastrojos.
SEE ALSO: Wild West of Honduras: Home to Narcos and Their Politicians
Buying cocaine from Colombian organizations, the Cachiros controlled lucrative trafficking routes, using powerful connections in the military, police and politics to their advantage — particularly in their former stronghold of Colón.
From around 2013, US authorities began to pursue the group. As InSight Crime previously reported, members of the organization turned themselves in between 2013 and 2015, leading to the cartel's decline.
Despite this, arrests of Cachiros associates involved in money laundering, which is more difficult to detect and target than the transnational cocaine trafficking the Cachiros previously oversaw, continue to occur.
In April of last year, five associates were found guilty of having laundered more than 700 million lempiras (just short of $29 million) for the group. They had been creating shell companies, which received money for no economic or legal justification.
In 2017, InSight Crime reported how authorities in Honduras had seized millions of dollars worth of property linked to the debilitated criminal structure, identifying several individuals tied to suspicious business and real estate transactions with Marlene Isabel Cruz Quintanilla, the wife of Javier Rivera Maradiaga.
At their peak, the Cachiros commanded territory stretching east to Gracias a Dios, south to Olancho and west to the region’s criminal hub, the city of San Pedro Sula.
Last month's intervention saw authorities carry out operations in the western departments of Copán, Cortés and Lempira. As InSight Crime reported in 2019, western Honduras is a region that has traditionally been associated with clandestine routes for all types of contraband, including drugs.