Court logo

The mayor of a town in Sonora, Mexico, was arrested last month on suspicion of passport fraud in Nogales, Arizona, leading to revelations he used three identities and had a previous conviction for smuggling cocaine in Indiana.

Rogelio Aboyte Limon took office in September as mayor of Bacum, a town about 300 miles south of Nogales. He was arrested Dec. 27 after 14 years of falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen to obtain a passport and visas for his family, according to documents made public Jan. 9 in U.S. District Court in Tucson.

Aboyte also used an alias in 2010 while driving through southern Indiana on his way to the New York area with 46 pounds of cocaine hidden in propane tanks, according to court documents.

The arrest in Nogales shed light on Aboyte’s absence from his official duties as mayor of Bacum, where speculation has run rampant about his whereabouts.

Aboyte is in federal custody and has a hearing scheduled for Jan. 22 in Tucson.

Trail of photos

While Aboyte gave fraudulent information to U.S. authorities, the photos he used showed his real face.

Those photos helped an agent with the Diplomatic Security Service, the law enforcement arm of the Department of State, retrace the myriad of documents Aboyte submitted over the years, according to an Aug. 29 criminal complaint.

The photos also matched a campaign flier for the mayoral election in Bacum, alongside Aboyte’s real name, the agent wrote.

The complaint describes a man who tried unsuccessfully to obtain U.S. immigration documents under his real name. Then, in 2004, he adopted a new identity and set about obtaining a passport and visas for his family.

In his 2004 application for a passport, Aboyte used a fraudulent U.S. citizen identity. He provided a fraudulent name and birth date, alongside a photo of himself. He used the passport for 14 years and even renewed it in 2015 and had it issued to his address in Tucson. The most recent border crossing listed in the complaint was through Nogales in May 2018.

The fraudulent statements made in Tucson for the 2015 passport renewal are the basis for the criminal complaint.

Further investigation matched the photos from the passport documents to four nonimmigrant visa applications Aboyte submitted under his real name, including one the same year as his fraudulent passport application. All the applications were denied.

Deportation paperwork for one of Aboyte’s alias, Raul Lopez Montano, showed Aboyte was deported in 1999 and 2000, the agent wrote. Photos from the paperwork matched Aboyte’s passport and visa applications, as well as a Mexican voter identification card under his real name.

The agent also described Aboyte using his false U.S. citizen identity when it came to his marriages.

Aboyte married his first wife in Mexico in 1992 under his real name, the agent wrote. The couple divorced in 2005 and then remarried the same year, using the fraudulent U.S. citizen identity. He then used that identity to obtain immigrant visas for his wife and their children to come to the United States.

Aboyte married his second wife in the United States in 2012, again using the fraudulent U.S. citizen identity. He married the same woman in Mexico in 2017 under his real name.

Propane cocaine

The agent also said Aboyte was convicted, under the Lopez Montano alias, in southern Indiana in 2011 of possession with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine.

Aboyte was behind the wheel of a white truck with a camper when a sheriff’s deputy searched the vehicle, according to a sworn affidavit from a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration filed in the Indiana case.

The deputy found 46 pounds of cocaine hidden inside propane tanks in the camper, according to the affidavit.

When it came time for sentencing, Aboyte’s Tucson-based attorney submitted 10 letters from family in friends in Bacum and nearby towns, as well as from Phoenix, saying Aboyte was a good man who helped the community. Those letters all referred to Aboyte by the fraudulent U.S. citizen identity.

Records from federal court in Indiana show he was sentenced to 87 months in prison in late 2011, which was later reduced to 70 months, with a period of supervised release to follow. Bureau of Prisons records show he was released from custody in October 2015. His supervised release ended in August 2017, court records show.

Unexplained absence

Aboyte has been detained since his Dec. 27 arrest, prompting questions from Sonoran news media about his absence from his official duties as mayor.

A Bacum city councilman said Aboyte was in Mexico City on official business, according to the Tribuna del Yaqui.

Meanwhile, Aboyte’s family said he was receiving medical treatment in Tucson, according to an interview Jacobo Mendoza, secretary general of the Morena political party in Sonora, gave to Hermosillo-based Proyecto Puente.

Mendoza said Aboyte must face the judicial process and, if he is found guilty, will be expelled from the party.

The state party was not aware of Aboyte’s 2011 drug-trafficking conviction in Indiana, partly because it took place in the United States rather than in Mexico, Mendoza told Proyecto Puente.

Contact reporter Curt Prendergast at 573-4224 or cprendergast@tucson.com or on Twitter @CurtTucsonStar