• 77°

Port Arthur man guilty of murder-for-hire; wanted estranged wife to “cry tears of blood”

BEAUMONT — A Honduran national residing in Port Arthur pleaded guilty Friday to federal violations in the Eastern District of Texas, according to acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei.

Santos Orellana-Hernandez, 47, pleaded guilty to use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire, tampering with a witness by intimidation and threats and conspiracy to commit witness tampering.

Orellana-Hernandez entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield.

“In this case, as soon as the Port Arthur Police Department learned of the defendant’s plot to kill his Port Arthur family’s relatives in Honduras, they coordinated with the FBI, who moved swiftly to prevent any bloodshed,” Ganjei said.

“I also commend the tremendous work of the investigative and prosecutorial team, which flew to Honduras to interview witnesses and prepare the criminal case against Mr. Orellana-Hernandez. Because of the excellent work of law enforcement in this matter, lives were saved.”

Port Arthur Police Chief Timothy Duriso said he appreciated the collaboration of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI, adding the PAPD would continue to work with federal partners to benefit Port Arthur.

According to information presented in court, from January to March of 2020, Orellana-Hernandez, residing in Port Arthur, solicited the murder of two extended family members residing in Honduras.

Specifically, Orellana-Hernandez solicited Gustavo Ramires, a person located in Honduras, to kill Orellana-Hernandez’s mother-in-law, G.V., and brother-in-law, J.A.V.

The purpose of the intended murders was revenge against Orellana-Hernandez’s soon-to-be ex-wife, who was seeking a divorce from Orellana-Hernandez in Jefferson County.

Orellana-Hernandez reportedly told E.A.V. that he would make her “cry tears of blood.”

Orellana-Hernandez offered to pay Ramires $200,000 in Honduran Lempira (approximately $8,000 in U.S. dollars) upon proof that Ramires had killed G.V., J.A.V., and two other individuals. Orellana-Hernandez directed Ramires to perform the killings on or after April 21, 2020, the date when the divorce was to become final.

Ramires was additionally instructed to provide photographic proof of the killings before he would receive payment.

Ramires later placed a recorded telephone call to Orellana-Hernandez, in which the two discussed the murder-for-hire plot, using coded language such as “planting the corn,” to refer to the killings.

Ramires later told investigators that “planting the corn” meant burying the victims’ bodies.

Orellana-Hernandez was indicted by a federal grand jury on May 20, 2020, and taken into federal custody.

In early June, while jailed, Orellana-Hernandez conspired with another person to intimidate E.A.V. in an attempt to make her withdraw the murder-for-hire accusation.

On Nov. 4, 2020, the grand jury returned a superseding indictment that added the witness tampering charges.

Orellana-Hernandez faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John B. Ross and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean C. Day.