Arizona mom accused of smuggling marijuana was framed, family says

Dylan Stableford

An Arizona woman who was arrested in Mexico last week on suspicion trying to smuggle 12 pounds of marijuana into the United States was framed, her family says.

"She's innocent," Anna Soto, one of Yanira Maldonado's seven children, told CNN. "She's an honest good woman—a Christian woman that would never do anything to jeopardize her freedom."

Maldonado was arrested Wednesday while she and her husband were returning to Phoenix by bus from an aunt's funeral.

The bus was stopped at a military checkpoint near Hermosillo in northwestern Mexico, where authorities say they found the 12-pound stash of marijuana under her seat.

Her husband, Gary Maldonado, says he was told by Mexican authorities he would have to pay $5,000 for her release. "Never ever in our lives [did we] deal with drugs or do drugs," Gary Maldonado told Phoenix's Fox 10 affiliate. "Everybody from the very beginning was telling us, 'We know you guys aren't guilty, but this is just the process.'"

The couple stored their luggage in a compartment under the bus, he said, adding that witnesses and video would prove they boarded the bus without packages.

Yanira Maldonado was transferred to a jail in Nogales, Mexico. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

"My biggest fear is that I will never get to see her again," Soto said.

Maldonado's family members are not the only ones skeptical about the charges.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake is "personally monitoring the situation" and "has had multiple conversations with the deputy Mexican ambassador this weekend," the senator's office said Monday.

"A passenger by himself or herself would have been unable to carry almost six kilos of marijuana onto a bus without being noticed," an unnamed Mexican official told CNN. "She must've been framed."