High-ranking Democratic Rep. Silvestre Reyes on Friday downplayed reports of his involvement in the successful release of a Mexican kidnapping victim related to his wife.
Federal agents coordinated with Mexican officials in order to secure the woman's release. But Reyes' response comes amid questions raised over whether he encouraged federal agents to assist in the woman's rescue, which involved the payment of a sizeable ransom.
The victim, identified in news reports as Erika Posselt, was taken in her home town, Ciudad Juarez, on June 19. She was released three days later in exchange for about $30,000, which was gathered by the woman's family in Mexico.
Although some news reports have suggested deeper involvement by Reyes, the congressman's spokesman Vincent Perez sought to put the speculation to rest, calling Posselt only a "distant relative" whom Reyes "has never met." He disputed a report that Posselt is Reyes' sister-in-law, and said Reyes had no influence over the case.
"Congressman Reyes is grateful that the victim is safe. ... The victim, whom the Congressman has never met, is a distant relative of the Congressman’s wife, and it does not appear that she was targeted because of her connection to the Congressman’s relatives," Perez said, according to a news release.
Perez said that when Reyes' office learned of the kidnapping from Texas-based relatives — who he said are U.S. citizens — "The Congressman’s staff immediately notified law enforcement authorities. We notify law enforcement in these circumstances without regard to the victim’s identity, country of citizenship, or legal status. ..."
"Congressman Reyes was informed of the incident by his staff after law enforcement had been notified. While the Congressman was kept apprised of the situation, he had no other role. Any suggestion that Congressman Reyes somehow influenced the actions of law enforcement is false."
ICE officials in El Paso said in a brief statement Tuesday that the agency worked with Mexican authorities to "help secure the release of a victim who was kidnapped in Ciudad Juarez.
The Washington Times reported Friday that American agents picked up Posselt and brought her to El Paso.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.