An Arizona mother jailed in Mexico for allegedly trying to smuggle 12 pounds of marijuana into the U.S. says she had nothing to do with the packets of pot found under the seat in a passenger bus.
Yanira Maldonado, 42, has been in jail in Nogales for almost a week after she was arrested at a military checkpoint about 90 miles from the U.S. border.
"This is a nightmare," she told ABC15.com in an exclusive interview. "I need to be out."
She told the Phoenix TV station that she had nothing to do with the marijuana, packed in plastic and wrapped in tape, found attached to the underside of her seat with hooks.
"I'm going to be free. I have nothing to hide," she said in the interview.
At a court hearing on Wednesday, her attorney, Jose Francisco Benitze Paz,said the smuggling effort was fairly sophisticated and would have been impossible to pull off for someone like Maldonado.
"It was very well prepared," he said. "It wasn't something quick. It was very well done."
Maldonado and her husband, Gary, said they were returning from her aunt's funeral last Wednesday when the passenger bus they were on was stopped at a Mexican military checkpoint. Authorities ordered everyone off, searched the bus and then claimed to have found the marijuana under her seat.
Gary said that authorities originally demanded $5,000 for her release but that the bribe fell through. The husband was released after initially being suspected of smuggling.
"I'm not a killer. I'm not a criminal. I'm just here by mistake because people are not doing their work," Maldonado told CNN in a separate jailhouse interview. "This is not right. I need to be back with my family. I need to be out of here. I need help."
She also told CNN that she is now rethinking advice she gives American friends who say they want to visit the country where she was born.
"I used to tell people, 'Come to Mexico. It's not true what they're saying. I go every year to visit my family. ... I come, I drive myself, nothing happens.' ... Look what's happening to me now. I cannot say that anymore," she said. "I don't want anybody to go through this."
In court Wednesday, Yanira's lawyer argued that soldiers had presented inconsistent testimony about two packages of marijuana they had recovered, with some saying both were found under his client's seat and others saying they were found under two separate seats.
"We just had our witnesses testify, I did my declaration," Gary Maldonado, her husband, told MyFoxPhoenix.com by phone. "Yanira did hers yesterday. It's looking promising, like our case is solid and theirs looks weak."
There will be another court hearing on Friday.
Yanira, the mother of seven, is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Mexico, her family said. She and Gary were married one year ago.
A search of court records in Arizona didn't turn up any drug-related charges against Yanira or Gary, the AP reported.
The Mexican Embassy in Washington said in a statement Tuesday that Yanira's "rights to a defense counsel and due process are being observed." The embassy didn't respond to allegations that she was being framed.
Contributing: Associated Press