PHOENIX (Reuters) - An Arizona mother is being held in a Mexico jail after about 12 pounds of marijuana were allegedly found under her seat on the bus she was traveling on last week, although her family insists she is innocent.
Phoenix area resident Yanira Maldonado, 42, is being held in jail in Nogales, in Mexico's northern Sonora state, on drug trafficking charges, prison officials said on Tuesday.
Maldonado and her husband Gary were in northern Mexico to attend a relative's funeral, and had decided to travel back to Arizona on Wednesday by commercial bus as they believed it was safer, according to news reports.
The bus was pulled over at a Mexican military checkpoint near the Sonoran capital of Hermosillo, where it was subjected to a search that found marijuana beneath Yanira's seat, Maldonado's family told news media.
"They told everyone to get off the bus. They found drugs on the bus. At first they claimed the drugs were found strapped under Gary's seat, but then they came back and arrested Yanira," Larry Maldonado, Yanira's father-in-law told ABC 15 news in Phoenix.
Larry Maldonado, in the interview, said Yanira is "100 percent innocent" of the charges. A call left with Larry Maldonado seeking comment was not immediately returned on Tuesday. It was not known if his daughter-in-law has an attorney.
The Sonora-Arizona border is a major drug trafficking corridor for Mexican cartels hauling thousands of tons of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and meth amphetamine to U.S. markets.
Traffickers haul drugs over the border in trucks, on horseback and on foot in backpacks, as well as using "mules" to smuggle drugs through the ports of entry.
Arizona Senator Jeff Flake has been in contact with the Maldonado family, as well as officials in Mexico and the United States regarding the case, his office said in a statement on Tuesday.
Flake, a Republican, spoke to Mexico's deputy ambassador to the United States over the weekend, and continues to follow the case, his spokeswoman Genevieve Rozansky said.
(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)