The arrest of Martin Villegas – 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 of the scheme and whether the former Mexican president purchased illegal boots himself. Before Fox left office in December, Villegas created a special brand of cowboy boot named after him, which was manufactured in Mexico’s shoemaking capital, Leon, in Fox’s home state of Guanajuato. The Mexican boot maker also produced footwear for Fox’s bodyguards, relatives and friends – including Bush, a fellow lover of ranchwear who accepted a pair of ostrich-skin boots as a gift during a visit to Fox’s ranch in 2001. Fox, in Rome for his election as co-president of an association of center-right parties from around the world, was under fire this week from Mexican media speculating not only about the boots, but the source of his post-presidential wealth. Reached by The Associated Press on Friday, former first lady Martha Sahagun said she and Fox were aware of Villegas’ arrest but would not comment. Fox issued a denial through his Web site Friday. Fox’s ruling National Action Party said it has confidence in Fox’s integrity and maintained the accusations were designed to detract attention from corruption cases involving opposition politicians. SKINS: Man who gave products to Fox and Bush is charged with money laundering. By Lisa J. Adams THE ASSOCIATED PRESS GUANAJUATO, Mexico – A boot maker to world leaders, including President Bush and Vicente Fox, is in a Colorado jail, charged with money laundering and conspiring to illegally smuggle skins of protected animals into the United States to provide exotic footwear for high-end clients. Villegas was arrested Sept. 6 along with two other Mexican nationals and two U.S. residents following a three-year undercover operation by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents. The five allegedly made 25 illegal shipments of banned skins into the U.S. since 2005, the department said. Days later, Mexican federal agents raided the Canada Grande factory and warehouse in Leon, which is owned by one of the other Mexican suspects, Esteban Lopez Estrada. They found about 550 products made of endangered sea turtle skins, as well as products made illegally from the hides of crocodiles, lizards and cobras. If convicted in the U.S., Villegas and Lopez face up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines for each conspiracy count, and 20 years and $500,000 in fines for each smuggling and money laundering count. If Lopez is convicted in Mexico, he faces one to nine years in jail and a fine of $1,365 to $13,650. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!