A 51-year-old North Carolina woman detained in Honduras on drug charges in s mix-up over an Arizona Iced Tea can-shaped safe has had her charges dropped after a test revealed the material found by police at an island airport was not positive for drugs. She was facing between 15 to 25 years in prison if found guilty, her husband says.
Amanda “Mandy” LaRoque, who owns The Goat Bar in Raleigh with her husband, Brandon LaRoque, posted a video on the bar’s Facebook page on July 30 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.”
On August 5, testing on the material was completed and it was found to be negative for cocaine, heroin and met, LaRoque wrote on Facebook. She said the judge in her case dropped the charges against her. But she will not be free to leave the island until Wednesday, August 9, at the earliest, because prosecutors are now appealing that ruling, saying they want to continue testing the material for other drugs. She returned home on August 10.
“Just leaving the airport & heading home to see my dogs!🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶 I’m am so thankful to be home! I cannot thank everyone enough for all of there support & well wishes! And thanks to all that came out to the airport to greet me! I am very lucky to have so many truly amazing people in my life!” she wrote on Facebook.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Amanda LaRoque Was Held in a Cell Known as ‘the Cage’ Before Being Brought to the Hospital & Then Stayed in a Cell Near Her Husband Until Her Release
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, choking up.
According to her husband, who began posting updates on her Facebook page on Tuesday, LaRoque was “having really high blood pressure, chest pains, heat exhaustion & dehydration.”
She saw a magistrate on Monday, but “nothing changed,” her husband wrote.
“The next hearing will be Friday. They are trying to put her back in the cage; but our lawyer got a court order for her to be seen by a doctor. We have been waiting at the police station for over 5 hours to see the doctor, no luck yet,” he wrote. “Hopefully he will move her to the hospital. If not, we will both be heading to the cage. Also, the police do not provide you with food here. You have to give them $ to go get it, water, etc. or have someone else go get it. We have not eaten since yesterday. Nowhere around here to get food. The areas of town we are in are terrible! Please keep spreading the word and thank you for everything you have done.”
In another post, he wrote:
Update: still waiting to finish the doctor. They are trying to get her a bed at the hospital, but it may be a another police station for the night. They are going to do this until they get her high blood pressure under control. Once this is done; it will be back to Oak Ridge (the women’s prison); but she will not have to go back into the cage they said. She will be able to roam around the common area. Thank god! Small victory. Some doctor from the Farmacia across the street put in a few good words for us. I don’t know her, but thank you for being a guardian angel. I don’t know if she could have done another night in the cage, much less 4 more.
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.
WTVD-TV purchased a version of the “can safe” and cut it open, showing the white powder-like substance that LaRoque says the police confused for cocaine. The news station says the white particles looked and smelled like plastic:
Amanda’s husband told the news station they sent the pictures of the can safe and the link to Amazon to a real estate agent helping the family.
“She said their mouths dropped, but at that point, they had already charged her and they kind of have to follow through now because they thought it was like something we made I guess,” LaRoque told the news station. “It’s crazy. I mean, I feel like I’m in a dream right now.”
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 Traveled to Honduras to Be With His Wife
Brandon LaRoque has traveled from Raleigh 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!”
He wrote on Tuesday, “They say they don’t have test kits on the island. It blows my mind.”
After Brandon LaRoque arrived in Roatan, he and his wife were taken by police to a hospital, according to a Facebook update he posted on her page Tuesday.
“We are currently at French harbor hospital. They will only keep her until we they stabilize her blood pressure, then it will be back to Oak Ridge. But she will not have to go back into the cage,” he wrote. By about 4:30 a.m., they were both back at the women’s prison, which he says is called Oak Ridge:
We are back in oak ridge. Only at hospital about an hour & a half. This place is terrible. They keep trying to get Mandy to back in the cage. She keeps saying no. So far so good. No one speaks English here. Still no sleep, no food either. But who cares about food. There is no tp even if we did. We don’t even have water now. Concrete floors. We are sleeping in a room on a mattress with no sheets. No fan, no Ac, no nothing. Our government needs to get it’s shit together & help us out. We are F*cking American Citizens!
He added, “If anyone in Roatan can bring us bottled water, tp and any kind of light food tomorrow; we would highly appreciate it. We will pay you for it. I’m guessing we will be here until the Friday hearing. We are at the Oak Ridge police station on the east end of the island. Thank you.”
He also shared photos and a video of the room he is sleeping in with his wife:
In a Facebook video posted early Monday, he said he was on his way to Honduras to be with her. He said she was planning on returning home and then going to Nicaragua in two weeks to look at property there.
“She set up appointments, met with real estate agents,” he said of her time in Honduras. “A week before she left, we noticed that in Utila there weren’t many safes. So she went out and bought, it’s called a ‘can safe.’ And the one she got, if you go on Amazon, look up can safe, it’s an Arizona Iced Tea can and what they’ve done is they’ve hallowed it out, put a piece of plastic in there and then you hide your money and your jewelry or ear rings in there or whatever when you’re on the beach or in your hotel room and no one even knows it’s a safe.”
LaRoque said in the video, “she took it down there and had no problems, she took $3,000 cash down there with her. When she was leaving today, she went to the airport in Roatan, Honduras, and she was picked out for security check. They checked her, and they asked what it was, she explained what the thing, the can safe, was, 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. They think that concrete or sealant or whatever it was was actually cocaine.”
According to LaRoque, “They had no way to test it, they said it will take up to 10 days. They have arrested her on trafficking and possession of cocaine. I’ve spoken to so many people, we have a lawyer in Honduras now working on this. She’s in a place called ‘the Cage,’ which is apparently a dugout area with bars on it.”
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 Were 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.
LaRoque was interviewed in 2015 by a local news station about how Obamacare was affecting her and her husband:
She has also owned a coffee shop, The Royal Bean, in Raleigh, according to a 2006 article. She is originally from Cary.
Her mother, Barbara Levy, told NBC News, “This whole thing is just so ridiculous. It’s such a horror. You just can’t believe it.”
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.”
Another friend wrote on Facebook, “This is terrible! Brandon LaRoque and Amanda helped me out with a big fundraiser for my mother a few years back, and donated money to the fund in addition. I can’t even imagine how scared Amanda must be. If you have any suggestions, connections, ability to help please do. These are local Raleigh business owners who have supported our local community for decades.”
Chris Pope wrote, “It’s almost impossible to believe things like this can happen to people you know so well… I’m sharing this in hopes that even though I don’t know anyone directly that can help, maybe someone who sees this will. If anyone knows someone who can help get Amanda Laroque back home please contact us, at the very least share the hell out of this until we get her back home..”
Carey Baillargeon wrote, “I have worked at 2/3 of this couples establishments and they have a ZERO tolerance for drugs..ZERO. They are quite possibly the sweetest, most under standing people you’ve ever met. Writing hurtful things on social media doesn’t make this any easier for the people that DO know them. Anyone that knows either one of them knows that Mandy wasn’t trying to smuggle cocaine back from Honduras. That’s ridiculous.”
4. Brandon LaRoque Pleaded With Friends to Share News of His Wife’s Situation to the Media & Politicians, Including by Tweeting at President Trump
Brandon LaRoque 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.”
He said, “the people in Honduras told me the best thing to do is to get this to the media, to politicians, so that they can help us pull some strings on this. … I don’t care what your political views are, please if you can help us out, I’d really appreciate it.”
LaRoque also thanked expats and locals in Honduras for their kindness and support.
“I do want to say that we are seeing an overwhelming amount of support from the Roatan Expats & native islanders. They are calling & offering to bring food. Very nice people in a terrible situation,” he wrote on Facebook Tuesday morning.
Brandon LaRoque posted a video on Tuesday of Amanda thanking those who have helped her while in custody:
He also posted a video showing her being led back into custody by police.
5. The State Department & Members of Congress Were Working on Helping LaRoque
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. A spokesperson for Senator Thom Tillis told WRAL the senator has been in contact with the LaRoque family and has been “making inquiries to the appropriate channels on her behalf.” Family and friends said they have also reached out to Senator Richard Burr, but his office told the news station they do not discuss interactions with constituents.
“Congressman Price is aware of Mrs. LaRoque’s situation, and his office has been in contact with her family,” said a spokesperson for Rep. David Price. “His office has also contacted the U.S. Embassy in Honduras, which is responsible for providing assistance and ensuring due process for U.S. citizens detained abroad, regarding Mrs. LaRoque’s case.”
Amanda LaRoque wrote on Facebook after her release, ” a special thank you to Debi Dulany & her social media army for getting out my story & Anna at Thom Tillis’ office! And to José Castillo for all of his hard work in navigating me through the Honduras court system! And Edi Marie at Remax for taking a leap of faith & believing in me when she didn’t even know me. And the mobs of locals & expats in Roatan that supported me, Kirsty, Dave, Mitch, Herb, Ilias, Everyone at Pineapple Villas! And lastly to all the media that helped to get my story/situation out there! I am forever greatful!! “What a long strange trip it’s been!” ❤️😘”