A former Sonoran official and his wife were detained Monday in Tucson, more than one year after Mexican authorities charged them with corruption.
Roberto Romero Lopez and his wife, Monica Robles Manzanedo, were taken into custody by Homeland Security Investigations, part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in connection with administrative immigration violations.
It is unclear the type of immigration violation at issue. Mexican media reported the couple used tourist visas to live in Tucson, but those visas expired.
The Mexican federal prosecutor’s office said in a news release Romero Lopez and Robles Manzanedo are “fugitives” who should be returned to Mexico. A Mexican federal judge issued arrest warrants for them in connection with charges of influence-peddling and making false declarations to authorities. Their arrest was the result of an Interpol alert.
The Mexican federal prosecutor’s office plans to ask for the couple’s “immediate deportation” or extradition to Mexico after they are processed by U.S. immigration agencies.
Romero Lopez was the “secretary of government,” which is considered the second-most powerful position in the Sonoran state government, in the administration of former governor Guillermo Padres Elias, who held office from 2009 to 2015.
Padres Elias is in prison as he awaits trial on charges of organized crime, money laundering and tax evasion, according to Mexican media reports. The Padres administration is accused of misappropriating more than $1 billion in public funds.
Romero Lopez and Robles Manzanedo, a former state legislator, face corruption charges related to the use of public funds to benefit their farm in southern Sonora, according to news outlet Proyecto Puente.
In July 2015, Mexican authorities found that the family had diverted part of the San Miguel river to protect their crops, which caused the flooding of dozens of homes in a nearby community, Proyecto Puente reported.
A Mexican federal judge issued arrest warrants in February 2016 for the couple and another former official of the Padres administration, according to the news service Notimex. Sonoran authorities also accused the couple of illicit enrichment.