A 51-year-old bar owner from North Carolina has been detained in Honduras on drug charges in what she and her family claim to be a mix-up over an Arizona Iced Tea can-shaped safe.
Amanda LaRoque, who owns The Goat Bar in Raleigh with her husband, Brandon LaRoque, posted a video on the bar’s Facebook page Sunday saying that she was being held by police in Honduras.
LaRoque said she was detained at an airport while on her way back home from a trip to the island of Roatan to look at houses for a planned vacation home purchase. She said in the video she was carrying a can safe used by tourists to hide money and jewelry while on the beach and airport security asked to inspect it. They found the can was empty and then cut into the lining, she and her husband said.
“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 Facebook video he posted Sunday. “They think that concrete or whatever it is – sealant – is actually cocaine.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Amanda LaRoque Is Being Held in a Jail Dubbed ‘the Cage’ & Says She Has Been Refused Medical Help
Mandy LaRoque posted a Facebook video to The Goat Bar’s page, which you can watch above, from the jail just after she was taken into detention on drug charges.
“My name is Amanda LaRoque and I’m from North Carolina, USA, and I came to Roatan to look at real estate and to hopefully purchase property as an investor,” she says in the video. “I was at the airport leaving from my trip and went through security and they found an iced tea container that’s used to put your money and your jewelry in when you’re on the beach. And they’re saying that the concrete in the can is cocaine and they’re now detaining me and charging me with possession and trafficking cocaine without the ability to check the canister.”
LaRoque added that she had been refused medical attention, saying, “I’ve been seen by a doctor and the doctor says I need to go to the hospital and the district attorney is refusing to allow me to go to the hospital and is saying that they’re going to send another doctor.”
She said she had been detained for eight hours at the time she posted the video, July 31 at 1:50 a.m.
“There’s nobody here that speaks English, somebody really needs to help me,” LaRoque concludes, sobbing.
Her husband, Brandon LaRoque, said on Facebook that he sent his wife and her friend, Wallace Hoveland, to Roatan, Honduras, last week to look at real estate as the couple begins to plan their retirement. She left on Monday and was planning to return Sunday after spending two days in Roatan, two days in Utila and then two more days in Roatan.
“While researching the area, we saw that Utila was a little less developed & figured that the hotels would not have a safe. So before she left, we bought her a can safe,” he wrote. “An Arizona iced tea one to be exact. If you are not familiar with these; they are cans that have been hollowed out & you can unscrew them & hide money in them.”
You can see an image of the safe below, from Amazon.com, where it can be purchased for $13.50.
Brandon LaRoque said his wife was stopped by security at the airport while she was leaving for home on Sunday.
“They searched her bag & asked about the can, she showed it and it was empty. They cut the can open & found a white powder in the lining. Concrete is used in the lining to get the proper weight. They have now arrested her for possession & trafficking & she is sitting in jail in Honduras,” he said. “They say it will take 10 days to get the results of a drug test. Anyone that knows Amanda LaRoque knows that she has nothing to do with drugs, much less trafficking them.”
Here is the full post Brandon LaRoque wrote on Facebook about her trip and the situation:
This is very important!! Please share this, so maybe someone in our government or news can help us. Earlier this week, I sent my wife & her friend down to Roatan Honduras to look at real estate; so maybe we could start planning out retirement. She left Monday & was supposed to return tonight. She spent 2 days in Roatan, 2 days in Utila & then another 2 days in roatan. She took $3000 with her, since she figured most places would not take credit cards. When she went to leave today; she was stopped by security. They searched her bag & asked about the can, she showed it and it was empty. They cut the can open & found a white powder in the lining. Concrete is used in the lining to get the proper weight. They have now arrested her for possession & trafficking & she is sitting in jail in Honduras.
Brandon LaRoque said she was taken to the cage Sunday night. “They have placed Mandy in a place called the Cage. No electricity. News paper for tp (toilet paper). It is literally a whole (sic) in the ground with bars on it,” he wrote.
“Her friend said it was the worst thing she’d ever seen,” Brandon LaRoque’s mother, Scottie Weathers, told WRAL-TV on Monday.
Wallace Hoveland, the friend who is with her in Honduras, wrote on Facebook, “I am not being detained but have stayed with Mandy until her husband can get here. She is being treated as guilty until proven innocent and is being held in horrific, inhumane conditions. The item they arrested her for is sold on Amazon and marketed to tourists as a safe way to store valuables while traveling.”
2. Her Husband, Who Is Headed to Honduras, Says It Could Take Up to 10 Days for the Material Seized by Police to Be Tested
Brandon LaRoque said he is heading to Honduras to help his wife.
“They say it will take 10 days to get the results of a drug test,” Brandon LaRoque said in a Facebook post. “Anyone that knows Amanda LaRoque knows that she has nothing to do with drugs, much less trafficking them. I have been on the phone all day with the embassy & i am flying out in the morning. Please spread the word on this. I can’t even believe this is happening!”
His mother, Scottie Weathers, told WRAL-TV that her son and his wife have not 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 told the news station. “It’s horrifying and it’s just unbelievable. You just don’t think this could happen. How would something like this happen, you know?”
3. LaRoque Opened The Goat Bar With Her Husband in 2003 & Friends Say They’re Shocked by What’s Happened to Her
The Goat Bar, owned by the LaRoques, has been open since 2003, according to its Facebook page.
“Yay to The Goat for becoming a new favorite bar in Raleigh… finally a place with diverse, chill crowds.. no cover… and drink specials ALL the time!! Not only are the drinks cheap but the bartenders know how to make them fabulous!” it says in its “About Us” section.
LaRoque, whose maiden name is Amanda Levy and who goes by Mandy LaRoque, is a North Carolina native, according to her Facebook profile. She does not have a criminal history, other than speeding tickets, court records show.
A friend told a local news station she is stunned by what has happened to her.
“This is just really shocking this whole thing that has happened to her,” Beth Halcomb, an employee at Pam’s Farmhouse, which shares a building with The Goat Bar, told WRAL.
On Facebook, other friends shared their disbelief and pleaded for her release.
Wallace Hoveland, her friend who is also in Honduras, but who was not detained, wrote, “I have known Mandy for over 30 years and she is an honest, good, law abiding citizen and the way she has been treated is unacceptable.”
4. Brandon LaRoque Has Pleaded With Friends to Share News of His Wife’s Situation to the Media & Politicians, Including by Tweeting at President Trump
Brandon LaRoque has pleaded with friends to spread news of his wife’s situation to contacts in the media and politicians, including by asking them to tweet at President Donald Trump.
“If you can, please tweet @realdonaldtrump. Her name is Amanda Laroque & she is imprisoned in Honduras,” he wrote on Facebook on Sunday.
He also wrote, “I have been on the phone all night with roatan. They told me the only way she would be released is if we blow this up & get the media to notice it. Please spread the word. If you know any media, please help us out. She has been transferred to what they call the cage. They are treating her like a cartel member.”
5. The State Department Says It’s Aware a U.S. Citizen Is Being Detained, but Hasn’t Commented Further
The State Department told WRAL-TV that officials are aware a U.S. citizen has been detained in Honduras, but would not comment on the case because of privacy concerns.
“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 the news station on Monday.
LaRoque said he has reached out to members of Congress and the governor, but they have not yet issued statements about the issue. It is not clear if they have responded to his requests for help.
Wallace Loveland, the friend that is in Honduras, said on Facebook, “The US Embassy has said they can’t do anything to help until she has been detained for over 24 hours.”