Tomas Yarrington Ruvalcaba, ex-governor of Tamaulipas, is accused of using $3.5m in bribes to buy property in the US.
A former Mexican presidential candidate has been sentenced to nine years in prison after officials accused him of spending millions of dollars in bribes on property purchases in the United States.
Tomás Yarrington Ruvalcaba, the 66-year-old former governor of Tamaulipas in northeast Mexico, received the sentence on Wednesday in a US District Court for southern Texas.
Judge Rolando Olvera also ordered the ex-governor to surrender a condominium he purchased in Port Isabel, a coastal city in Texas. He had faced a maximum sentence of up to 20 years.
Yarrington Ruvalcaba pleaded guilty in March 2021 to conspiracy to commit money laundering, admitting to US authorities he took bribes in exchange for business contracts in the state of Tamaulipas in northeast Mexico.
Federal prosecutor Alamdar Hamdani hailed Wednesday’s decision as “bringing a corrupt politician to justice”.
“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,” Hamdani said in a press release issued by the US Attorney’s Office.
Yarrington Ruvalcaba served as governor from 1999 to 2005 and, during that time, allegedly accepted $3.5m in bribes from individuals and companies hoping to forge business deals in his state.
That money was then laundered into the US through luxury purchases, including cars, aeroplanes and properties including estates and beachfront condos, according to prosecutors.
One of those luxury condos, in the Texas resort town of South Padre Island, was forfeited to the government in 2012. It was estimated to be worth $640,000.
The ex-governor is also accused of using nominee buyers, or straw men, to mask his participation in the purchases.
As a former member of Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), once a significant political force in the country, Yarrington Ruvalcaba was a candidate for president in 2005.
He was charged in May 2013 and arrested while travelling in Italy in April 2017. Prosecutors allege he was using a fake name and passport at the time. Italian authorities approved his extradition to the US the following year.
In its statement on Wednesday, US authorities said they expect Yarrington Ruvalcaba will face “removal proceedings” to Mexico, where he also faces an investigation.
The state of Tamaulipas serves as the base for one of Mexico’s most powerful criminal organisations, the Gulf Cartel.
Recently, four Americans who crossed into Matamoros, Tamaulipas – across the border from Brownsville, Texas – were caught in a shootout and kidnapped by armed men. A Mexican woman was also killed in the crossfire.
Authorities searched to recover the kidnapping victims and found one alive, one injured and two dead in wooden shack on the edge of the city.
The Scorpions faction of the Gulf Cartel claimed credit for the kidnapping last Thursday, issuing an apology for violating its commitment to “respecting the life and wellbeing of the innocent”.
Local media reported that the cartel delivered the five members responsible to authorities, dropping them off with their hands tied on the street.