LOS ANGELES — A Guatemalan woman wanted for her alleged role in the murder of a former top security advisor to the Guatemalan government was handed over to authorities in Guatemala City Tuesday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), capping a two-year effort by her native country to secure her capture and return.
Maria Del Rosario Melgar Martinez, aka Mary Ro, 50, was repatriated to Guatemala on board a charter flight coordinated by ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Air Operations (IAO) Unit. Upon arrival, ERO officers turned Melgar over to Guatemalan law enforcement personnel.
Melgar is wanted in Guatemala for her alleged complicity in the murder four years ago of Victor Jose Rivera Azuaje, who served as a high-level advisor to Guatemala's Department of Interior during several administrations. Melgar, who worked as Rivera's personal assistant, was with him the night of April 7, 2008, when he was fatally shot. According to the Guatemalan arrest warrant, which charges Melgar with murder and illicit association, the two were riding together in a vehicle when they were both struck by gunfire. The arrest warrant states that several witness in the preliminary trial of the accused triggerman implicated Melgar, alleging she helped Rivera's killer locate and track him. The charging document claims Melgar received money from Guatemalan drug traffickers for her cooperation.
An ERO officer, assisted by personnel from the U.S. Marshals Service Pacific Southwest Regional Task Force, arrested Melgar Aug. 3 at the federal building in downtown Los Angeles when she arrived for an interview related to her application for permanent residence. Unbeknownst to Melgar, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had denied her benefit application after being alerted by ICE about the outstanding Guatemalan warrant. Following her arrest, ICE placed Melgar in removal proceedings. Earlier this month, an immigration judge granted Melgar voluntary departure to Guatemala under safeguards, paving the way for Tuesday's repatriation.
"Those who seek to escape responsibility for their actions by fleeing to the United States will find no sanctuary in our communities," said Timothy S. Robbins, field office director for ERO Los Angeles. "As this case makes clear, ICE is working closely with its foreign counterparts to promote public safety and hold suspected criminals accountable – no matter where they commit their crimes."
ERO Los Angeles received substantial assistance with the case from the ICE Assistant Attaché Guatemala.
Since Oct. 1, 2009, ERO has removed more than 500 foreign fugitives from the United States who were being sought in their native countries for serious crimes, including kidnapping, rape and murder. ERO works with ICE's Office of International Affairs, foreign consular offices in the United States, and Interpol to identify foreign fugitives illegally present in the country.