Former Mexican governor and presidential candidate sentenced for money laundering
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas
HOUSTON – The former governor of Tamaulipas, Mexico, has been sentenced to nine years in prison for accepting over $3.5 million in illegal bribe money and using it to fraudulently purchase property in the United States, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.
Tomas Yarrington Ruvalcaba, 66, was also a former candidate for president of Mexico. He pleaded guilty March 25, 2021.
Today, U.S. District Judge Rolando Olvera sentenced Yarrington to 108 months imprisonment. Not a U.S. citizen, Yarrington is expected to face removal proceedings following his imprisonment. In handing down the sentence, the court noted that as an elected official, Yarrington violated his oath of office, weakening the country of Mexico and promoting criminal activity. As part of his sentence, Yarrington has also forfeited a Port Isabel condominium.
“Even if you are governor of a Mexican state, we will not stand idly by when you use your position to wrongfully fill your pockets and violate the laws of the United States.” said Hamdani. “Today’s prison sentence for Yarrington concludes a multi-year, multi-agency international investigation spanning two continents concluding in bringing a corrupt politician to justice.”
“HSI relentlessly disrupts and dismantles transnational criminal organizations that pose a threat to U.S. national security, to include any corrupt public officials who use their position for criminal gain,” said Craig Larrabee, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in San Antonio. “HSI is dedicated and determined to investigate those involved in criminal activity and who launder their ill-gotten gains in the United States.”
Yarrington 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 laundered his illegally obtained bribe money in the United States by purchasing beachfront condominiums, large estates, commercial developments, airplanes and luxury vehicles.
“IRS-Criminal Investigation (CI) special agents are experts in following the money in a financial crime, and we found plenty of money to follow that helped to unravel Yarrington’s criminal enterprise,” said acting Special Agent in Charge Rodrick J. Benton of IRS-CI’s Houston Field Office. “Working alongside other law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the other U.S. and international partners helps U.S. taxpayers know that justice is a global concept and no criminal is out of reach.”
“The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), HSI, IRS-CI and FBI, along with our state, local and international law enforcement partners, were a force multiplier in this case who collaborated to halt the threat of corrupt money into our country,” said Special Agent in Charge Daniel C. Comeaux of the DEA – Houston Division. “There will always be zero tolerance for those who abuse their power for self-gain at our communities' expense. This sentence highlights our continued commitment to bringing those who misuse that power to justice.”
“This individual took advantage of his position to enrich himself at the expense of those who trusted him,” said Special Agent in Charge Oliver E. Rich Jr. of the FBI - San Antonio Division. “Today’s sentencing serves as a powerful reminder to any corrupt official that these activities will not be tolerated. The FBI remains committed to working alongside our law enforcement partners to hold corrupt officials accountable to the communities they were sworn to serve.”
In April 2017, authorities captured Yarrington in Italy while traveling under an assumed name and false passport. 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. He will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
HSI led the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation dubbed Operation Green Tide with the assistance of IRS – CI, DEA, 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 drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks. 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.
Updated March 15, 2023