MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Two brothers from Ecuador wanted in the South American country on charges that they stole millions of dollars from a now-defunct bank have been detained in Florida by U.S. immigration authorities.
William and Roberto Isaias were arrested Wednesday in Miami and detained pending deportation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Nestor Yglesias said in an email late Saturday.
Ecuador’s government has sought the brothers’ extradition for years, but it was not clear what prompted their arrests. Yglesias only said the men were “unlawfully present” in the U.S.
The bank, Filanbanco, was the largest in Ecuador, and its failure in the late 1990s contributed to an economic collapse. The brothers were charged with embezzlement but fled the country before trial. They were found guilty in absentia and sentenced to eight years in prison in 2012. The brothers’ deny the allegations and have been fighting for the return of businesses and assets seized by the Ecuadoran government.
Their arrests were inconsistent with the U.S. government’s treatment of their case thus far, the brothers’ Miami-based spokesman, Freddy Balsera, told The Associated Press on Sunday. He noted that their extradition has been denied three times over the past two decades, under both Republican and Democratic administrations.
“I don’t think this was targeted. We think this was just the way the current immigration policy is being applied,” Balsera said, adding that the brothers’ were seeking release from detention and a review of their case.
He said the brothers were grateful to the U.S. for giving them refuge from the regime of former Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, who governed from 2007 through 2017.
Roberto Isaias, 74, was arrested at his doctor’s office, while William, 75, was arrested at home, Balsera said. Both men were being held at ICE’s Krome Detention Center outside Miami.
The Ecuadoran government’s attorney in Miami did not respond to emails or a phone message left over the weekend.
(File – In this Feb. 28, 2018, file photo, the entrance to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office is guarded in San Francisco. A U.S. judge in California struck down an immigration law Friday, Oct. 5, 2018 that the Trump administration has used to go after cities and states that limit cooperation with immigration officials. AP Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez)