By Ivan Castro
MANAGUA (Reuters) - Eighteen Mexicans convicted on drug-trafficking charges after posing as television journalists while entering Nicaragua with $9.2 million were repatriated on Monday from the Central American nation.
Nicaraguan police transported the defendants, including a Mexican policeman, under tight security to Managua's International Airport, where authorities turned them over to Mexican prosecutors and prison officials.
In January, a Nicaraguan judge sentenced the 18, led by the group's only woman, Raquel Alatorre Correa, to 30-year sentences for drug trafficking, money laundering and organized crime. In October, an appeals court reduced the sentences to 18 years.
The members of the group will serve out their remaining jail time in Mexico and will not be able to make further legal appeals, the Mexican federal attorney general's office said in a statement.
In August 2012, this group of 18 people was detained when they crossed the Nicaragua-Honduras border carrying $9.2 million in six vehicles with logos from Televisa, Mexico's largest broadcaster.
Televisa denied any connection to the incident.
Three other Mexican citizens sentenced in Nicaragua for drug trafficking were also repatriated.
Over the past decade, Mexican drug cartels have moved into Central America, using it as a staging point to transport South American drugs to the United States.
(Writing By Lomi Kriel; Editing by Jan Paschal and Ken Wills)