Local News

Honduran authorities arrest Raleigh woman, believing material in 'can safe' to be drugs

Posted July 31

— A Raleigh couple's dream for a vacation home in the Caribbean turned into a nightmare this weekend when the woman was arrested on drug trafficking charges in Honduras.

Amanda LaRoque had been checking out houses in Roatan, on an island off the Honduran coast, and was heading back to the U.S. when she was arrested at the airport, said her husband, Brandon LaRoque.

She was carrying a "can safe," a fake Arizona Iced Tea can where tourists can hide money and jewelry while on the beach, and airport security asked to examine it. When they found the can was empty, they then cut into the lining.

"They took her in a back room. They cut it open, and apparently the lining has concrete in it so it helps weigh it so it feels like a full can of Arizona Iced Tea," Brandon LaRoque said in a video posted on Facebook while on his way to Honduras to help free his wife. "They think that concrete or whatever it is – sealant – is actually cocaine."

LaRoque, who owns The Goat bar on Western Boulevard in Raleigh with his wife, has hired an attorney in Honduras, but authorities said it could take up to 10 days to test the material.

Meanwhile, Amanda LaRoque remains in custody in a Honduran jail dubbed "The Cage."

"Her friend said it was the worst thing she'd ever seen," Brandon LaRoque's mother, Scottie Weathers, said Monday.

Amanda LaRoque posted her own video on Facebook in which she said she needed medical attention but that Honduran authorities refused to take her to a nearby hospital.

Weathers said neither she nor her son have gotten any sleep.

"When I talked to him last, he's a nervous wreck and not really sure what's going to happen when he gets down there," Weathers said. "It's horrifying and it's just unbelievable. You just don't think this could happen. How would something like this happen, you know?"

The family has contacted the U.S. embassy in Honduras and U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina for help. They also are trying to spread the word, hoping pressure from the U.S. will push Honduras to release Amanda LaRoque.

"Please, if you have any pull with the media, any friends, connections. If you can post it on Facebook, if you can go on Twitter," Brandon LaRoque said in his Facebook video, "if you could help us out, I would greatly appreciate it."

A State Department official declined to comment on the case, citing privacy considerations, but said the government is aware that a U.S. citizen is being detained in Honduras.

"The U.S. Department of State and our embassies and consulates abroad have no greater responsibility than the protection of U.S. citizens overseas," the official said in an email to WRAL News.

A spokesman for Tillis said the senator has been in contact with the LaRoque family and has been "making inquiries to the appropriate channels on her behalf." A spokeswoman for Burr said the office doesn't discuss interactions with constituents.

12 Comments

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  • Dan Homiller Aug 1, 4:17 p.m.
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    That seems uncalled for, Tim. In the U.S., they can't put you in jail based on only a suspicion. Locking somebody up or detaining somebody for more than a pretty short period requires "probable cause," which is a significantly higher standard than just "suspicion."
    For what it's worth, I doubt seriously that merely suspecting that the safe's liner was made of cocaine would pass the "probable cause" test, in the U.S. A preliminary field test that was positive probably would.

  • NC Tom Aug 1, 7:56 a.m.
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    Should have gone to Emerald Isle

  • Ray Rivera Aug 1, 4:45 a.m.
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    I hope she is freed quickly and afforded the same due process we afford visitors from other countries.

  • Patrick Gentry Jul 31, 7:15 p.m.
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    This is why all my international travel was with the US Army the only customs we deal with is US customs when returning to the US.

    Can't imagine being stuck in a Central American prison. If their story is correct in a couple of weeks this will all be cleared up. Don't see why they felt the need to have a fake can of tea as a "safe". Just stuff that stuff your money in your sock or something.

  • Thomas Williams Jul 31, 7:05 p.m.
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    It is alarming as to how many people in authority nowadays that are really just plain stupid.

  • Tim Orr Jul 31, 6:55 p.m.
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    Let's just wait for the tests to come back and see if it's really concrete or not. Then we can call it concrete evidence. I wonder how well the Honduras would do without the All Mighty American Dollar??

  • Janet Ghumri Jul 31, 6:36 p.m.
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    Don't they have the test kits there?? How can they detain a tourist without knowing if the substance was anything illegal? This situation doesn't add up. The airport customs agents see can safes a lot. I wonder if someone used her for a distraction or switched cans on her. This stinks. I hope it gets cleared up soon, for her sake, as well as the whole family! Prayers

  • Nancy LaBarge Jul 31, 5:52 p.m.
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    You hear horror stories like this all the time. This is one reason I choose to keep my feet on the US soil....

  • Steve Clayton Jul 31, 5:15 p.m.
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    Chance you take going into these third world countries whether you are carrying drugs or not.

  • Kathee Liberto Jul 31, 4:54 p.m.
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    I think this is hilarious! How arrogant for an American to go south of the border and expect to come out unscathed after what we are doing to their people. I hope they start arresting all the Americans that come into their countries.

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