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January 26, 2009 / The Monitor
REYNOSA -- The trial of an alleged Harlingen baby broker has been put on hold until a new judge can be appointed to the court handling his case, Mexican officials said.
Amado Torres Vega, 64, has remained in a Tamaulipas state prison since his arrest last year and will likely stay there as his case remains in judicial limbo, said court clerk Mario Cervantes Pedraza.
Tamaulipas state Judge Hiram Mascorro Garcia formally charged Torres on child trafficking charges in June after a woman reported he purchased her grandchild from the child's mother, who was in a Reynosa jail.
But Mascorro has since left the bench for unspecified reasons, Cervantes said. Since then, court employees have continued to move the court's docketed cases forward - including Torres' - through their pretrial phases.
But no final decisions can be made without an official sitting judge.
"We can't proclaim guilt or innocence," Cervantes said in Spanish.
Reynosa investigators have accused Torres of purchasing more than a dozen children just last year and bringing them to couples in the United States for a fee.
Several of the mothers involved have told police that he snuck them across the U.S. border just before they gave birth so that their children would become U.S. citizens and more easily adoptable within the country. At least six of the women have since been arrested and face similar charges, according to Tamaulipas state prosecutors.
But Torres has maintained his adoption work was legitimate and questioned the story police have told about him in a jailhouse interview with The Monitor soon after his arrest.
Torres is unlikely to face charges in the United States despite allegations that he violated immigration laws, federal authorities said.
Although FBI agents interviewed several U.S. families that had adopted children from Torres, they ultimately decided not to press charges because of the ongoing case against him in Mexico, a bureau spokesman said Monday.
If convicted, Torres could face up to 12 years in a Mexican prison.
Jeremy Roebuck covers courts and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4437.