HOUSTON - The former governor of Tamaulipas, Mexico, has admitted he accepted over $3.5 million in illegal bribe money and used it to fraudulently purchase property in the United States, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Tomas Yarrington Ruvalcaba, 64, was also a former candidate for president of Mexico. Today, he admitted to a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering in a pay to play type of scheme.
As part of the plea, Yarrington admitted he accepted bribes from individuals and private companies in Mexico to do business with the state of Tamaulipas while he served as governor. Yarrington was in that position from 1999 to 2005. He was also an Institutional Revolutionary Party candidate for president of Mexico in 2005.
Yarrington used the bribery money he received while governor to purchase properties in the United States. He had prestanombres - nominee buyers - purchase property in the United States to hide Yarrington’s ownership of the properties and the illegal bribery money used to purchase them.
Yarrington admitted one of the illegally purchased properties was a condominium in Port Isabel. He also acknowledged he knew it was against the law in Mexico to take the bribes and to hide the over $3.5 million in illegal bribe money in the United States by buying real estate, cars and other personal items.
U.S. District Judge Hilda G. Tagle accepted the plea and will set sentencing at a later date. At that time, Yarrington faces up to 20 years in federal prison. He has also agreed to forfeit the Port Isabel condominium.
In April 2017, authorities captured Yarrington in Italy while traveling under an assumed name and false passport and other identification documents. He was taken into custody on a provisional arrest warrant based on the indictment returned in May 2013. Although Yarrington contested extradition, Italian authorities eventually authorized his extradition to the United States. He arrived in April 2018 where he has remained in custody.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) led the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) operation dubbed Operation Green Tide with the assistance of IRS – Criminal Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI and Texas Attorney General’s Office. It included agents and officers in Brownsville, San Antonio, Houston, Corpus Christi and New York. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs handled the extradition in this matter. The U.S. government also acknowledges with gratitude the significant assistance received from the government of Mexico in the course of this investigation. Additionally, the United States acknowledges the assistance of the U.S. Marshals Service, HSI-Rome, HSI-Mexico City, the Italian Ministry of the Interior (particularly Interpol Rome and the Central Operations Service of the Italian National Police) and the Italian Ministry of Justice in Yarrington’s extradition.
OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found on the Department of Justice’s OCDETF webpage.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jody Young, Jon Muschenheim and Karen Betancourt are prosecuting the case.