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United States Seizes Luxury Condo Allegedly Owned by Former Mexican Governor

DEC 11 (CORPUS CHRISTI, Tex.) -A luxury condominium located in South Padre Island alleged to be owned by former Tamaulipas Mexico Governor Tomas Yarrington has been successfully forfeited to the government, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Javier F. Peña and United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today.

The real property, located at 334 Padre Boulevard in South Padre Island, is valued at approximately $640,000. The government alleged, as its basis for forfeiture, that the condominium was involved in a money laundering transaction, that the property constitutes or was derived from proceeds traceable to drug trafficking, and that the property is traceable to proceeds regarding an exchange for a controlled substance.

The civil forfeiture complaint indicates that the titled owner of the condominium is Napoleon Rodriguez, who was acting as a straw-purchaser or nominee for Tomas Yarrington in the purchase of the property. Rodriguez is currently in custody in Mexico.

From 1998 to at least 2005, the complaint states that Yarrington acquired millions of dollars in payments while holding elected office from large-scale drug organizations operating in and through the Mexican State of Tamaulipas and from various extortion or bribery schemes. Yarrington was the former mayor of Matamoros, Mexico, from 1992 to 1995; governor of Tamaulipas from 1999 to 2004, and Mexican presidential candidate in the 2005 election. Tamaulipas lies across the lower U.S. border across from Brownsville, McAllen and Laredo and includes the major narcotics hubs of Matamoros, the headquarters of the Gulf Cartel, Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa. 

Yarrington was allegedly assisted in his effort to acquire and maintain large amounts of money gained in this manner through the collaboration of various financial operators he utilized, including Rodriguez. Court records indicate Yarrington, during and after leaving public office, began investing large sums of these illicit funds in real estate in Texas and Mexico using specific front-men and corporate business entities. After and during his unsuccessful campaign to become President of Mexico, the complaint alleges he used his illicit income from his political years to become a major real estate investor through various money laundering mechanisms. His alleged co-conspirators agreed to help Yarrington launder the millions in proceeds from drug trafficking activities through real estate investments in the United States, according to court records.  

In or about December 1998, Rodriguez allegedly purchased the condominium in his name as a nominee or straw man for Yarrington at Yarrington’s request. Yarrington put the condominium in Rodriguez’s name to avoid detection of the asset by law enforcement. The actual total purchase price paid for the property was $450,000. According to the warranty deed, $300,000 of the purchase price was financed and secured by a vendor’s lien and by a deed of trust. The lien was later released, less than a year after purchase, on April 20, 1999. The complaint alleges the condominium was paid for entirely with Yarrington drug trafficking proceeds and with currency provided to Rodriguez by Yarrington. All of the routine maintenance fees and yearly taxes are paid for by Yarrington.

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos granted the government’s motion for final forfeiture of the property, permitting the government to take full possession of the condominium, sell it and pay off taxes and homeowner’s association fees owed.  The government expects the property to be sold at public auction in the near future. 

The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation was conducted in San Antonio, Brownsville, Houston and Corpus Christi by the DEA, Homeland Security Investigations, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation and the Texas Attorney General’s Office. As part of the investigation, the United States sought the assistance of the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Mexico via the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in effect between the United States and Mexico.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Charlie Lewis, Jody Young and Julie K. Hampton.

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