Tags: arizona | mom | smuggling | drugs | mexico

Arizona Mom Jailed in Mexico Denies Smuggling Marijuana

Thursday, 30 May 2013 11:56 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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An Arizona mom is fighting for her freedom after being accused by Mexican authorities last week of smuggling 12 pounds of marijuana on a bus bound for the United States, according to CNN.

Yanira Maldonado, of suburban Phoenix, has been held in a Nogales, Mexico prison for more than a week, after Mexican officials said they found two packages of marijuana under the bus seat where she was sitting. The bus had stopped at a military checkpoint near Hermosillo, Mexico for inspection, and passengers were ordered off the bus.

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The case has gained national attention since Maldonado's family went public about the arrest. U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, (R.-Ariz., issued a statement that his office is monitoring the case and has spoken to Mexican officials. 

Yanira Maldonado has denied the charges.

Maldonado was traveling with her husband Gary Maldonado to a funeral for Yanira’s aunt near Los Mochis in the state of Sinaloa, on May 19, according to Larry Maldonado, Gary Maldonado's father.

On May 22, they were headed back on the same Mexican bus line, when they passed through the military checkpoint where Mexican authorities made the accusation. The Maldonados were the only U.S. citizens on the bus.

Family members believe that someone else may have been trying to smuggle the marijuana and that Yanira Maldonado just happened to be sitting in the seat where the drugs were hidden.

“We feel we have a strong case,” Larry Maldonado said.

Gary Maldonado said authorities initially demanded $5,000 for his wife's freedom but the bribe fell through.

In court on Wednesday, Maldonado's lawyer argued that soldiers had presented inconsistent testimony about the two packages of marijuana, with some saying both packages were found under the woman's seat and others saying they were found under two separate seats.

Maldonado's attorney, Jose Francisco Benitez Paz, asked prosecutors at the hearing to provide security-camera video footage of passengers boarding in Los Mochis to show the woman did not sneak drugs onto the bus.

Yanira and Gary Maldonado got married one year ago and have seven children together from previous marriages, Larry Maldonado said. They are both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where they met, he added.

Yanira Maldonado is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Mexico. She works with disabled children. Gary Maldonado is American-born and works in the information technology field, his father said.

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