- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - A retired Maine pastor who fell victim to an international drug smuggling scam has been released from a Spanish prison and is back on U.S. soil, Sen. Susan Collins announced Tuesday.

Joseph Martin, 77, of Dresden, was reunited with his family in the United States over the weekend, the Republican senator said.

Martin had been in a Spanish prison since July 2015 after Spanish customs and border agents found him with more than 3 pounds of cocaine. The drugs were hidden in documents that Martin agreed to pick up in South America and was trying to deliver to a woman he had fallen in love with online.

Collins and eight other lawmakers wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry to work with foreign governments to re-examine cases in which American elderly citizens were tricked into serving as drug mules.

“I am just so happy that Pastor Martin is back home where he belongs,” Collins said.

Martin, who served a fraction of a six-year prison sentence, is one of at least 145 victims who become unwittingly involved in such scams, she said.

Collins, chairwoman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, led a hearing in February that revealed the scam publicly for the first time.

“This scam, which preys on seniors’ emotions, is undoubtedly one of the worst scams my committee has uncovered,” she said.

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