Three Traffickers, Jailed in Miami, are a Pandora’s Box for Guatemala

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The US justice system has proved, once again, that it has long arms. Between 2013 and 2014, it captured Hayron Eduardo Borrayo Lasmibat and Marllory Dadiana Chacon Rossell, both Guatemalan nationals, as well as the Colombian Cesar Barrera. 

All three knew they were on the radar of the US Attorney General’s Office. In January 2012, the US Treasury Department had announced two of three were part of a drug trafficking and money laundering network. Each one chose a different way to save themselves.

A ‘Proactive’ Suspect

By 2008, the Colombian Cesar Barrera was a big time drug trafficker. A tumultuous family life had led him to live in Mexico where he eventually became a link between the Mexican buyers and the Colombian sellers, according to the US indictment against him. It was around then, the indictment says, he became Eduardo Borrayo’s associate. The two bought and transported cocaine from Venezuela to Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico, before selling it to clients who took it to the United States.  

After a problem emerged with a Mexican distributor, Barrera was kidnapped and shot. He later returned to Colombia but his name was known. On July 28, 2011, the US Attorney’s Office in Florida accused Barrera, along with Borrayo, of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States. 

This article originally appeared in Plaza Publica and was translated, edited and reprinted with permission. See Spanish original here.

In June 2012, through a lawyer, Barrera said he “wanted to try to proactively cooperate with the [US] government.” Around this time, the US Attorney’s Office asked to temporarily seal the indictment “so that the public availability of Barrera’s declarations wouldn’t alert Borrayo to the arrest warrant against him.”  

Barrera turned himself in to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Panama on January 25, 2013. The completed arrest warrant indicates that, three days later, the Colombian was extradited to Miami, where he plead “not guilty.” But on October 9, 2013, 48 hours after his trial started, the Colombian did a 180 and plead guilty. And on February 27, 2014, a judge sentenced Barrera to 10 years (120 months) in a prison in Georgia. 

Scapegoat

It’s a mystery when and where the French captured Borrayo. Borrayo maintained a low profile, but by early 2013, he must have known something was amiss. He spent the next year and a half in Guatemala, according to immigration records, until July 1, 2013, when he went to Mexico. 

SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profiles

From there, he presumably went to France because it was there he was arrested for, according to a court in the Southern District of Florida, “conspiring to distribute cocaine.” A note next to the date — March 13, 2014 — indicates: “subject was brought [to the United States] in extradition from France by USMS [US Marshals].”

In the Southern District of Florida, the press official Marlene Fernandez-Karavetsos said that her office could not divulge the circumstances of Borrayo’s detention. The press office of the Justice Palace in Paris, France, did not respond to a request for information. No French newspaper reported the capture, and the US Embassy in Paris did not issue a press release about it, according to the US press attaché in Guatemala, Maureen Mimnaugh.

Borrayo’s capture was reported as having occurred on March 13, 2014, the date on which he was extradited to that country. However, his indictment suggests his capture occurred months before in France. Case document number 27 indicates that on August 1, 2013, Peter Raben registered in the court in Florida as Borrayo’s defense attorney. The registration occurred a month after Borrayo traveled to Mexico, and suggests he had already been captured in Paris. By then, the US extradition process was most likely already underway.

Borrayo has plead not guilty and is scheduled to face trial in March 2015, in a Miami Federal Court. 

Chacon, in Purgatory

Details of Chacon’s odyssey are even harder to figure out. Last May, two months after the extradition of Borrayo, Chacon told Prensa Libre in a telephone interview that she was on vacation in France (where her daughter, Christina Stefanel Castellanos Chacon, studied) and not detained, as another publication had claimed.

Chacon — whose only known accusation came from the US Treasury Department for being the head of a money laundering network — added that in November she had a hearing scheduled with the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to clear up charges against her, and that her husband, Jorge Andres Hernandez Carbajal, and her daughter — both of whom were allegedly tied to her money laundering network — were now cleared of all charges.

Then, in September, Chacon appeared in jail. Chris Burke, the spokesman for the US Federal Bureau of Prisons, said her prisoner number was 05626 — 104 at the Federal Detention Center in Miami. Still, her name doesn’t appear on any record accessible to the public or on any other US court record. Burke said Chacon wasn’t transferred from any other prison. And the US Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Florida, which is prosecuting Borrayo’s case, refused to comment.

Chacon’s name is also conspicuously absent from the indictment of Borrayo and Barrera even though the US Treasury Department tied Borrayo to the same money laundering network. (See US Treasury organizational chart below) In two press releases, in January and August of 2012, Chacon and Borrayo were accused of laundering money for drug traffickers and of trafficking drugs for different Mexican cartels including the Zetas. The second press release extended the accusations against Chacon’s daughter and another alleged associate, identified as Maria Corina Saenz Lehnhoff or Corina del Pinal.20150105-guatemala-chacon-org-chart

In 2012,  Adam J. Szubin, the Director of OFAC, said, “Marllory Chacon’s drug trafficking activities and her ties to the Mexican drug cartels make her a critical figure in the narcotics trade.” But Chacon has not been sentenced, and no US authority revealed what she has pleaded, or if she is going to be sentenced to time in prison.

In the indictment of Borrayo and Barrera, they mention other unidentified co-conspirators. But the US Attorney’s Office in Florida, via Fernandez-Karavetsos, said Chacon isn’t one of them. According to a former DEA agent, the secrecy that surrounds Chacon could indicate that she is a confidential informant, and that she came to an agreement with the US justice system.    

In October, InSight Crime said Chacon might have turned Borrayo in. But the timing of Barrera’s deal with the US suggests that Borrayo’s fate was decided long before Chacon was jailed in Miami. 

Fuzzy Clues in Guatemala

The Treasury Department identified Chacon as the “most active money launderer in Guatemala,” and one of the most prolific drug traffickers in Central America, but the Attorney General’s Office in Guatemala said they couldn’t find evidence against her and didn’t order her capture.

Although at least 24 companies in Guatemala  enabled the US  Treasury Department to make the charges stick against Borrayo and Chacon, up until the last time both of them were on Guatemalan soil (between July 2013 and February 2014), the Guatemalan Attorney General’s Office had not initiated any legal processes to take them to trial.

The implications are troubling in part because in 2013, an elPeriodico article said Chacon and the Vice President Roxana Baldetti had a long friendship, a relationship that both deny, although Chacon did tell Prensa Libre she had met the VP once. elPeriodico also published that Chacon and Borrayo gave $2 million dollars to the 2011 presidential campaign of Baldetti’s Patriotic Party. No one from the party has commented on the accusation, and there is no known investigation into the allegation. 

Borrayo also doesn’t have any formal accusations against him in Guatemala, a source in the Anti-Money Laundering Attorney General’s Office in Guatemala who wished to remain anonymous said. The source also said that the names of Chacon and her daughter only appear in a legal process against the Guatemalan Karla Sagastume, because Sagastume justified her possession of $3,900 by saying that Chacon had lent her the money. According to the Attorney General’s Office, Mark Ludwig Cante, Sagastume’s husband, was captured and sentenced because he was caught in 2008 in Nicaragua with $750,000 in cash, and could not explain how he had obtained the money.  

In June 2012, just six months after the US Treasury Department identified Chacon’s network, her migration restriction was lifted. Guatemalan authorities didn’t begin any legal proceedings when the United States reiterated its accusations against Chacon in August 2012. By 2014, the anti-money laundering unit had for all intents and purposes, stopped pursuing the case.

A source from the Guatemalan Attorney General’s Office said the inaction in the cases of Chacon and Borrayo were because the office didn’t want to obstruct the legal processes against them in the United States.

“The strategy is to wait until they are sentenced [in the United States] before proceeding here,” the source explained. 

*This article was reprinted and translated with permission from Plaza Publica. See the Spanish original here.   

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