TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Five federal lawmakers in Honduras allegedly diverted public funds to their own use, authorities said Monday.
The deputies from the country's Congress requested the funds for a nonprofit group, which cut checks to them immediately after receiving the money, according to the investigation.
Honduras' chief prosecutor Oscar Armando Chinchilla and the head of the Organization of American States' anti-corruption mission in the country, Juan Jimenez Mayor, announced the case Monday.
In late 2015, more than $360,000 was transferred from the finance ministry and the Congress to a nonprofit organization for community projects, prosecutors said. The projects never materialized, but banking records show the lawmakers deposited the checks in personal accounts or cashed them.
Authorities have asked the Supreme Court to suspend the suspects as deputies and immediately seek their arrest.
"The use of funds for social programs would also be even more serious due to the country's poverty," Jimenez said.
The accused deputies are:
—Hector Enrique Padilla Hernandez, who allegedly took $11,430.
—Audelia Rodriguez Rodriguez, who allegedly took $15,240.
—Augusto Domingo Cruz Asensio, who allegedly took $11,430.
—Dennys Antonio Sanchez Fernandez, who allegedly took $19,051.
—Eleazar Alexander Juarez Sarabia, who allegedly took $19,051.
None were re-elected in the Nov. 26 elections.
The investigation began in September when a new unit formed this year combining Honduran prosecutors and investigators with their international counterparts from the OAS mission. It is the first case to be worked from the start by that team. The OAS mission started in April 2016.
The case comes as Hondurans continue to await a resolution of the disputed presidential election, in which both President Juan Orlando Hernandez and main challenger Salvador Nasralla have claimed victory.