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Arizona Mormon mom framed on smuggling charges in Mexico released

Posted on May 31, 2013 by News Admin

 Update - 5/31/2013 9:20 a.m.:The Phoenix woman accused of attempting to smuggle 12 pounds of pot into America on a bus from Mexico has been set free after a judge ruled she had nothing to do with the cannabis.

Video footage showing Yanira Maldonado getting on a bus in Mexico with a small purse and two bottles of water was all it took to end the week-long ordeal that had the Mormon mother of seven facing jail time in Mexico for allegedly smuggling drugs.

She was released late last night in Mexico to her husband, Gary, who immediately drove her across the border to Nogalez, Arizona where she met with reporters.

According to video provided to the court, packages of marijuana were attached with wires to the bottom of the seats in the bus. According to Maldonado's lawyer (and blatant common sense), the packages would have been impossible for one passenger to do while boarding a bus without being noticed. We told you about Maldonado earlier this week, though at the time there was no mention of video surveillance footage.

Mexican army officials had accused her of attempting to smuggle drugs into the country, but right away things seemed fishy. Gary Madonado said that police originally accused him of the crime, but then shifted blame to his wife. He also claims that the armed soldiers told him that $5,000 would make the whole thing disappear. He says he quickly got the money together, but that the bribe was turned down.

The soldiers who accused her of the crime did not show up for court, another sign that they had absolutely no case against her.

Yanira, a nationalized U.S. citizen originally from Mexico, says she doesn't harbor any bad feelings for her former country.

"I love Mexico. My family is still there. So Mexico... it's not Mexico's fault. It's a few people who you know did this to me," she said.

Original article - 5/29/2013: Yanira Maldonado is a lot of things. A naturalized citizen of the United States. A Mormon. A Phoenix, Arizona resident. A wife. A mother of seven. A loving family member who will travel by bus to Mexico for the funeral of a beloved aunt. But the one thing she isn't, according to her family, is a drug smuggler.

Which is why her arrest last week for allegedly trying to smuggle twelve pounds of pot into the U.S. is so troubling to everyone around her. They say the entire thing was staged to frame Yanira and extort money from her family.

Maldona, 42, says that the marijuana - which Mexican officials say was found directly under her seat - was not hers, and her family is adamant that she's telling the truth. Maldona's husband, Gary, says army officials planted the pot and set his wife up, claiming that at one point they demanded $5,000 before she would be released.

Gary Maldonado's father, Larry, told CNN that the soldiers originally said the marijuana was under Gary's seat. Larry Maldonado says that as soon as he found out about what was going on and called the U.S. Consulate in Mexico, the charges were switched from Gary to Yanira.

Since then, Maldona has been held at a state prison in Nogales. She is currently going through a two-day hearing that started yesterday which will decide whether or not she will face a trial. According to, the soldiers who performed the search will also testify at the hearing.

Maldona's daughter, Anna Soto, said the allegations are completely unbelievable for anyone who knows her mother.

"I know there's people out there saying or asking, 'Did she really do it? Are you sure?' And you know, it hurts to see that," Sota told Phoenix's KPHO. "If you would've known my mom, if you've met her, you would know she had nothing to do with it."

Later, she told CNN's Piers Morgan that her mother - who is active in the Mormon church - abhors drugs and doesn't even drink alcohol: "She is not that kind of person. I don't think she's ever even tried a cigarette in her life or even drank a beer," Soto said. "You know, she's one of those people that tries to stay away from those kinds of people or those kinds of things."

And Yarina Maldona's story seems to be holding water with Mexican officials too. An unnamed official with the state of Senora told CNN today that it seems highly improbable that Yarina Maldona would have been able to sneak 12 pounds onto the bus without anyone else noticing. "She must have been framed," he said.