The mayor of Bacum, Sonora, was sentenced Monday to 15 months in U.S. federal prison for passport fraud, just a few months after taking office.
Rogelio Aboyte Limon, a 48-year-old Mexican citizen, was arrested Dec. 27 in Nogales, Arizona, while using a fraudulent passport to take his family to Disneyland, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Tucson. He pleaded guilty in January to obtaining the passport by using someone else’s name and by failing to disclose a cocaine-trafficking conviction.
The arrest came after he took office in September as mayor of Bacum, a small town about 300 miles south of Nogales. Since his arrest, his supporters have maintained he was in Mexico City on official business or receiving medical treatment in Tucson, according to Mexican media reports.
“Having just been elected mayor and holding office for less than 3 months to being arrested and incarcerated was a tremendous turn of events for him,” defense lawyer Ramiro Flores wrote in an April 5 sentencing memorandum. “He was completely ashamed and wanted to make amends as soon as possible.”
City officials in Bacum granted Aboyte Limon a 90-day leave of absence in January, Radio Sonora reported Jan. 23. A city official told Radio Sonora that Aboyte Limon had asked for the leave to take care of health issues.
Aboyte Limon is “not quite sure how this conviction will affect his ability to continue as mayor of Bacum,” Flores wrote. “However, he is quite certain that if he is incarcerated past April 22, 2019, that he will lose his position.”
Flores successfully requested the sentencing hearing be expedited from April 29 to April 8, court records show. But Judge Raner C. Collins denied Flores’ request, based partly on Aboyte Limon’s congenital heart defect, to sentence Aboyte Limon to time-served.
Federal prosecutor Heather Siegele described a long-running scheme in which Aboyte Limon used three identities to obtain a passport for himself and immigrant visas for his wife and children. He obtained the fraudulent passport in 2004 under the name of an acquaintance in Bacum who was born in California.
While using an alias, Aboyte Limon served a 70-month prison sentence after he was convicted of trafficking 46 pounds of cocaine in 2010 in Indiana. He was convicted of improper entry in Arizona in 1999 and again in 2000. He also was arrested near Nogales on human-smuggling charges around that time, Siegele wrote in an April 5 sentencing memorandum.
In contrast, Flores described Aboyte Limon as a pillar of the community in Bacum who runs a charitable foundation that provides orthopedic devices, wheelchairs, walkers, and other devices free of charge to people with disabilities.
“After his arrest and conviction in 2010 he would never even dream of becoming involved in that type of illegal activity again,” Flores wrote. “As an example; at the time of his arrest for the instant offense he was traveling to the United States simply to take his children to Disneyland.”
Siegele asked for a sentence of 18 months in prison, saying Aboyte Limon “used multiple identities to fraudulently manipulate United States government agencies and functions to his benefit while also committing immigration offenses and a serious drug trafficking offense.”
Aboyte Limon continued to “enter the United States under this fraudulent identity even while running for public office in Bacum, Mexico, and after being elected mayor — a position that should include a respect for law,” Siegele wrote.