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BRIEF

Top Honduran Drug Trafficker Sentenced in the US

ELITES AND CRIME / 23 JUL 2015 BY MICHAEL LOHMULLER EN

The sentencing of a member of a Honduran drug trafficking family in a US court is the latest in a series of developments that have shaken up Honduras’ criminal landscape in the past year.  

On July 10, the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida condemned Digna Azucena Valle Valle to 11 years and two months in prison; a sentence to be followed by five years of supervised probation, reported La Prensa.

In December 2013, Digna Valle -- along with her brothers Miguel Arnulfo and Luis Alonso, and son Gerson Stanley Ortega Valle -- was accused of conspiring to traffic large amounts of cocaine from Colombia to the United States via Honduras. She was arrested in July 2014 at Miami International Airport.

Along with her brothers and other relatives, Digna Valle formed part of the Valles family clan, which the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) identified in August 2014 as one of “the most prolific Central American narcotics trafficking organizations.” The family is also suspected of having ties with Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel.

Digna Valle faced anywhere between 10 years to life in prison. In an effort to receive a lesser sentence, she pled guilty to drug trafficking charges and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors by providing information on her connections in Honduras.

InSight Crime Analysis

The arrest of Digna Valle set off a domino effect that has shaken up Honduras’ criminal underworld.

In August 2014, two months after her arrest, Honduran authorities seized over 50 properties belonging to the Valle family. Three of her brothers were then captured in October, with the arrests occurring just days apart in the province of Copan -- the family’s base of operations. This marked the first time a member of the family had been arrested in Honduras, and two of the brothers -- Miguel Arnulfo and Luis Alonso -- were quickly extradited to the United States.

SEE ALSO: Valles Profile

By the end of October 2014, nearly half of the 19 Honduran drug traffickers wanted in the United States had been captured.

With so many of Honduras’ leading drug traffickers being captured and ending up in US custody -- where they potentially collaborate with US investigators by becoming informants -- corrupt Honduran elites have become uneasy, eroding the country’s once stable criminal underworld.

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