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Brenda Martin guilty in money-laundering case, Mexican judge rules

A Mexican judge on Tuesday found Brenda Martin guilty of money laundering, as friends of the Ontario woman say she'll request to serve her prison time in Canada.

A Mexican judge on Tuesday found Brenda Martin guilty of money laundering, sentencing the Ontario woman to five years in prison without parole and a fine of close to $3,500.

Martin's friends have said she'll likely request to serve her prison time in Canada because launching an appeal would mean she would have to remain in a Mexican prison.

Her lawyer, Guillermo Cruz Rico, said the 51-year-old Trenton woman received medical assistance after she heard the verdict, but didn't give any further details. He said she was in a fragile mental and physical state.

"She was crying and screaming. She didn't believe what is going on here," he said.

Cruz Rico said he hadn't yet had a chance to read the judge's reasons for the ruling.

Martin's friend Deb Tieleman, who was in the courtroom, collapsed in deep sobs as the verdict was read, said CBC reporter Paul Hunter from Guadalajara.

Martin must spend at least another five days in jail because under Mexican law, a convicted prisoner must wait out the five-day appeal period before an appeal or transfer process can begin.

Mother alleges corruption  

Martin's 69-year-old mother, Marjorie Bletcher, said she would pray for her daughter.

"This has to be devastating for her. This is crazy," she said tearfully from her home in Trenton. "She’s in such a fragile state, this might drive her over the edge."

She alleged corruption within the Mexican judicial system.

"This is a travesty of justice. I guess we didn't pay a judge so I guess that's why the verdict came down," she said.

Paul Macklin, founder of the Save Brenda Martin Fund, said while he is "extraordinarily disappointed," he does hope she'll be able to serve her time in Canada.

"There's a glimmer of hope we are going to be able to get her home," he said. "That has always been our key goal."

Ottawa will try to arrange speedy transfer: Day

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said the government will work to arrange a prisoner transfer as quickly as possible.

"Sometimes, these prisoner transfers can take weeks, if not months, but I have given instructions very clear that we want everything set up ready to go," Day told CTV Newsnet from New Orleans.

A former senior official with Foreign Affairs, Gar Pardy, said if Martin is transferred to a Canadian prison, she would soon be eligible for parole because she has already served two years in a Mexican jail. Canadian prisoners are usually eligible for full parole after serving one-third of their sentence.

"I think the key thing here is to work the system that exists to ensure she is transferred to Canada in as short a time as possible," said Pardy.

Martin was found guilty of being part of a $60-million internet fraud scheme run by Canadian Alyn Waage, who was convicted of fraud in 2006. He is serving a 10-year term in a U.S. prison.

Martin maintained her innocence, saying she worked for Waage only as a chef. Waage has testified Martin was unaware of his activities.

The nature of Mexico's justice system, which does not include oral trials and puts the onus on the accused to prove his or her innocence rather than on the prosecution to prove guilt, meant Martin had to wait out the legal process in prison.

Martin's family and friends say imprisonment has taken its toll on her, leaving her depressed, heavily sedated and on 24-hour suicide watch in Puente Grande women's prison near Guadalajara.

With files from the Canadian Press

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