GUADALAJARA, Mexico - Brenda Martin, already distraught over her imprisonment in Mexico, was "devastated" Tuesday when a judge found her guilty of involvement in a scam operated by her former boss, and immediately began making arrangements to be taken to Canada, her lawyer said.

The verdict dashed her hopes of being freed quickly from jail.

It left her family worried that she might try to kill herself, and set in motion calls for Ottawa to bring her back to Canada under a prisoner-transfer program.

But she may have to endure the Mexican prison for at least several more days before the process could begin.

Martin, 51, formerly of Trenton, Ont., was given a five-year sentence and fined 35,800 pesos - equivalent to about C$3,680.

She has been in jail for two years in connection with the Internet scheme run by her former boss, but she has consistently maintained she did not know it was a scam.

The judge's ruling, however, says she knew there were illicit funds involved.

"Brenda Kim Martin has been found guilty of being involved in operations involving illicit funds," said the ruling by Judge Luis Nunez.

In reading an abbreviated version of the ruling, the judge's office gave no reasons for the guilty conviction.

Martin was not in the courtroom for the five-minute hearing and was told by officials in prison shortly before the verdict was delivered.

"She was devastated," said her lawyer Guillermo Cruz, who was with her when she learned of the decision.

"She was crying, she got some medical assistance ... she (later) asked me what reason the judge had - she can't understand why he thought she was guilty."

"Before she got the verdict, she said if she's (found) guilty, she wouldn't be much longer here in Mexico. It's a scary statement."

Martin's longtime friend Debra Tieleman burst in to tears upon hearing the verdict, still clutching two plane tickets in her hand - one for herself and one for Martin. She said ahead of the decision that she was optimistic enough about the outcome to take a leap and buy Martin a ticket to Toronto.

After the hearing she lashed out at Mexican officials, and demanded that Canadian authorities help ensure Martin is transferred to Canada within days.

"She will go home, but she will go home to jail as far as I know," Tieleman said. "I hope that when she lands in Canada and Corrections Canada takes this over, that the parole board doesn't take its sweet time looking at this."

Cruz said Martin had already signed papers to get the transfer process moving, but could have to spend at least another five days in Mexican custody. Under Mexican law, a convicted prisoner must wait out a five-day appeal period before the transfer process can begin.

A Canadian Embassy official said the government will continue to provide assistance.

The verdict came as a huge blow to Martin and her supporters, who feared that she is too fragile to handle the bad news. Martin has been on suicide watch at the prison and friends say she was terrified ahead of the verdict.

Her mother Marjorie Bletcher cried when she heard the verdict.

"She is in such a fragile state that I'm afraid that this might just take her over the edge," Bletcher said. "But I guess that was done so they could save face. That's the only reason I figure this all happened, and because we never paid any bribes to the Mexican judges."

Her father, Tom Martin, said his daughter had already attempted suicide three times.

"I'm worried what she's going to, what she might do to herself," he said as he and his wife, Cathy Collins, and family watched the news on television at their home in Surrey, B.C.

In Ottawa, Opposition Liberal MP Dan McTeague said it's time for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to demand that Martin be released immediately.

A spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day indicated the minister could have Martin released from Mexican custody once she signs the necessary paperwork.

Federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney, who visited Martin in prison in March and has taken an active interest in her case, said the federal government will act quickly in Martin's case.

"We certainly intend to expedite any applications she makes as quickly as possible to get her back to Canada," Kenney told The Canadian Press in a phone interview from Paris.

Martin has been held at the Puente Grande women's prison near Guadalajara since February 2006 when Mexican authorities arrested her.

Alyn Waage, formerly of Edmonton, masterminded the scheme called the Tri-West Investment Club which bilked 15,000 investors out of nearly US$60 million from 1999 to 2001.

Martin worked as a chef for Waage in Puerto Vallarta but was fired in 2001 because of a disagreement about his mother.

She was paid $26,000 in severance, and invested part of that money into Waage's business. She says she didn't know his business was fraudulent - a fact Waage confirmed in a sworn statement.

She has consistently denied having any knowledge of the scam, and Waage told The Canadian Press last month he paid Martin a year's severance simply because he felt bad about firing her.

Martin subsequently invested $10,000 of the severance pay into Tri-West - money Waage returned to her once it became clear he had been involved in illegal activities.

Martin's lawyer had unsuccessfully tried to get her case thrown out, arguing she was never provided with an interpreter - a breach of Mexican and international law.

Martin's friends and family have said they feared for her mental and physical well-being, noting she had attempted to commit suicide three time while in prison and lost more than 30 pounds. They have criticized the Canadian government for not doing more to help her.

Martin's case has been something of a diplomatic eyesore.

Each media report of her plight racheted up pressure on Ottawa to press her case with Mexican officials.

It also put Mexico in the unenviable position of defending the autonomy of a justice system perceived by some as rife with human-rights abuses.

Latest From ...