MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) - Nicaraguan officials on Monday sent back to their home country 18 Mexicans caught posing as journalists in an attempt to smuggle $9.2 million in drug money through Nicaragua.
The 18, and three other Mexicans convicted of similar crimes in Nicaragua, will serve out at home 17- and 18-year sentences for money laundering and other convictions. The two nations have an agreement allowing prisoners to serve prison sentences in their own countries.
Mexico's Attorney General's Office said the inmates arrived Monday and were sent to federal prisons in the states of Jalisco, Tamaulipas and Nayarit.
The 18 Mexicans convicted in the fake journalist scheme were arrested in 2012 when Nicaraguan officers found bundles of cash hidden in phony TV news vehicles.
Last January, a Nicaraguan judge sentenced them to 30 years, but those sentences were reduced to 18 years on appeal.
The circumstances in which the other three Mexicans were arrested were not immediately explained, but Central America has become an active trafficking route for Mexican cartels.
Nicaraguan police chief Ramon Avellan said the transfers will free up prison space in Nicaragua.