The US has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of leaders of the Montes Bobadilla drug clan – a Honduran transport group that has showcased unusual staying power.
The State Department alleges that Herlinda Bobadilla, 61, and her sons Tito and Juan Carlos Montes Bobadilla are the current leaders of the group, which moves drugs and launders illicit proceeds throughout Central America, Mexico and the United States. Since the arrest of Herlinda Bobadilla's third son, Noe Montes Bobadilla, in 2017, their roles in the organization "have grown significantly," according to a May 2 State Department news release.
Prosecutors from Virginia's Eastern District indicted Herlinda Montes Bobadilla and her three sons in 2015 on drug charges, alleging that they transported "multi-ton" shipments of South American cocaine for Central American and Mexican drug trafficking organizations. The group charged a fee of ten percent for each load, with payment typically made in cocaine, prosecutors said.
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In 2019, Noe Montes Bobadilla was sentenced to 37 years in prison for trafficking thousands of kilograms of US-bound cocaine.
The leadership of the family drug clan has changed several times since its founding in the 1980s by Pedro García Montes, who was shot dead in 2004 in the Colombian city of Cartagena. His cousin, Alex Adán Montes Bobadilla, took over and brought into the fold his cousin Herlinda and her sons, according to a 2016 report in Honduran news outlet El Heraldo.
After Alex Adán died in 2014 and her son's arrest three years later, Herlinda Montes Bobadilla assumed primary leadership, having previously assisted her sons "in the importation, transportation and distribution of cocaine," according to the State Department.
The group has long been a target of both US and Honduran authorities. This includes a 2017 seizure of some 40 properties belonging to the family.
InSight Crime Analysis
Where others have fallen, the Montes Bobadilla “transportista” group has managed to hold onto its operations in the Caribbean department of Colón, a critical waystation for cocaine moving through Central America.
Along Honduras’ northern coastline, Colón is a well-established thoroughfare for maritime, aerial and overland cocaine. According to the 2015 indictment, Colón’s “remoteness, limited infrastructure, lack of government presence and weak law enforcement institutions” have made the region prime real estate for groups like the Montes Bobadillas.
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These “transportista” groups have for decades played the role of intermediary smugglers for large drug organizations. Pedro García Montes gained expertise moving cocaine for the once-powerful Cali Cartel. Similarly, the clan maintained links with key elements of the Honduran criminal underworld, having reportedly inherited the trafficking empire left behind by the Cachiros drug clan, once one of the dominant trafficking organizations in Honduras.
Today, the group still benefits from connections with one of Colombia’s top trafficking organizations: the Urabeños. According to La Prensa, the Montes Bobadilla clan is the group’s top partner in Honduras, receiving, processing and in some cases producing cocaine in collaboration with the Colombian group.
But transport groups have gained more autonomy in recent years, as some of the larger organizations in Mexico have splintered and as more drugs have begun to flow to Europe.
The Montes Bobadilla clan may even be cultivating coca and producing cocaine in Honduras. Two large coca plantations were discovered in March in the hillsides of Iriona, a municipality in the Colón department that has become a hotbed for coca crops. Both farms allegedly belonged to the family clan.