Bootmaker to Famous Politicians in Colorado Jail

September 22 2007, 11:24 AM

Martin Villegas is one of several people indicted in Colorado last month for importing and selling protected animal skins and money laundering. Their arrests followed a three year sting operation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Among those whom Villegas made boots for: President Bush and former Mexican President Vicente Fox.

The group sent more than 25 shipments to the United States, including skins from sea turtles, ostrich and caiman, according to the indictment. Now his arrest -- and Mexico's raid of a warehouse filled with hundreds of cowboy boots and belts made from endangered species -- has raised questions about how much Fox knew and whether the former Mexican president knowingly purchased illegal boots himself. ....The Mexican bootmaker also produced footwear for Fox's bodyguards, Cabinet members, relatives and friends -- including Bush, a fellow lover of ranchwear who accepted a pair of ostrich-skin cowboy boots as a gift during a visit to Fox's ranch in 2001.

Fox denies knowing about the illegal scheme. A review of the court docket on PACER shows that Villegas, whose full name is Martin Villegas Terrones, was ordered detained without bond pending trial following a hearing at which U.S. Magistrate Judge Boyd Boland determined him to be a flight risk. He is also indigent, and being represented by a federal public defender.

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