‘Positive outcome’: Ex-Mexico state governor Tomás Yarrington Ruvalcaba sentenced to 9 years, forfeits his Port Isabel condo in $3.5M bribe case

Attorney for ex-governor Chris Flood calls sentencing a ‘positive outcome’

Tomas Yarrington Ruvalcaba (ICE, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – United States District Judge Rolando Olvera sentenced Tomás Yarrington Ruvalcaba, 66, former governor of Tamaulipas, Mexico, on Wednesday to 108 months or nine years for accepting over $3.5 million in bribe money and using it to fraudulently purchase property in the United States, federal authorities said Wednesday.

Not a U.S. citizen, federal officials said 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 U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. 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.”

In a news release, federal officials said 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. Yarrington Ruvalcaba pleaded guilty March 25, 2021. He will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future, federal officials said the news release about the case.

Chris Flood, Houston-based defense attorney for Yarrington Ruvalcaba, called the sentencing a “positive outcome for the governor,” as at the time of the sentencing, the court and government dismissed allegations that he was involved in organized crime, drug trafficking or laundering drug proceeds.

“Yarrington is glad that this case is finally over,” Flood said via a news release. “It took time, but this is a positive outcome for the governor.”

Tamaulipas lies along the southern border between the United States and Mexico directly across from Brownsville and Laredo, Texas.

About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.