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Yanira Maldonado's drug arrest a false accusation, family says

Posted By GABRIELLE LEVY, UPI.com   |   May 28, 2013 at 4:35 PM
The family of an Arizona woman says she is being falsely accused of smuggling marijuana from Mexico, framed by Mexican officials for a payout.

Yanira Maldonado, who took a bus trip across the border with her husband Gary to attend the funeral of her aunt, sits in a Mexican jail after she was arrested at a military checkpoint south of the Mexican border last Wednesday.

Officials said they found 12 pounds of pot under the seat, and first arrested Gary Maldonado, CNN reported. When Gary Maldonado's father contacted the U.S. Consulate in Hermosillo, authorities released him and instead charged his wife.

"It's about getting money here," Gary Maldonado said. "From what I hear, that's a regular occurrence."

He was willing to make a payout -- authorities had told him to pay $5,000 for her release, regardless of her guilt -- but by the time he had pulled the money together on Friday, he was told it was too late.

"When he got there, they said, ‘We don't have any record of her at all,'" Brandon Klippel, Gary Maldonado's brother-in-law, told KPHO Phoenix. "He panicked. He told me terror struck him. And he thought, for that period of time, that he'd never see his wife again."

He later learned she had been transferred to a women's jail in Nogales, and had been kept in miserable conditions while her jailers tried to get her to sign documents she couldn't read, possibly admission of guilt statements.

But the family is not alone in questioning the arrest. An official with the state of Sonora, where the arrest took place, said the details of the case sound shaky at best.

"Can you imagine? A passenger by himself or herself would have been unable to carry almost 6 kilos of marijuana onto a bus without being noticed," the official told CNN. "She must've been framed."

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake is monitoring the situation, his office said, and has been regularly in touch with the Mexican embassy.

Yanira Maldonado was set to have a hearing Tuesday, at which a judge would decide whether to release her or hold her for four months ahead of a trial.

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