Phoenix family says mother wrongfully accused, detained in Mexico

Posted at 10:29 PM, May 27, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-28 10:04:29-04

PHOENIX – A Phoenix family traveled to Mexico by bus, but when they tried to return Mexican federales arrested the mother on accusations of drug smuggling, and her family says she is being wrongly accused.

Fox 10 in Phoenix reports that the family of Yannira Maldonado says the woman is being wrongly accused and detained.

Anna Soto, Maldonado’s daughter, told Fox 10 they’ve taken the bus to Mexico many times before, but she said this time it was different.

“They were there for a funeral and it turned into a nightmare," she said.

Maldonado and her husband where returning to Phoenix following her aunt’s funeral when the bus they were on was stopped at a checkpoint near Hermosillo. The federales searched the bus and said they found drugs under the seat the couple was sitting in, Fox 10 reports.

Gary Maldonado said he and his wife, who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, haven’t ever been involved with drugs.

"Never in our lives deal with drugs, or do drugs," he said.

Gary Maldonado told Fox 10 the federales first charged him for the drugs before letting him go and charging his wife instead. He said a Mexican attorney advised them to offer cash.

"Everybody from the very beginning was telling us, 'We know you guys aren't guilty, but this is just the process,'" he said.

Soto said the family did eventually offer money, but it did not bring about her mother’s release.

"He took it to them, and they said, 'Oh, it's not about the money anymore.'"

Soto said she visited her mother in a Nogales prison Sunday.

"She started crying and...she's like, 'I have faith that people will help us, that we will get out of this together as a family,’” Soto said.

Fox 10 reports that Senator Jeff Flake has gotten involved. A statement released by his office said he is monitoring the situation and has had multiple conversations with the Mexican ambassador.

Gary Maldonado told Fox 10 that Flake called him Sunday, “He still has high hopes that justice will prevail for us.”

For more on this story, visit Fox 10 Phoenix’s website.