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Former Mexican presidential candidate sentenced to US prison

Tomas Yarrington Ruvalcaba, former governor of Tamaulipas, is accused of using $3.5 million in bribes to buy US real estate.

A former Mexican presidential candidate was sentenced to nine years in prison on Wednesday after officials accused him of spending millions of dollars in bribes to purchase real estate in the United States.

Tomás Yarrington Ruvalcaba, the 66-year-old former governor of Tamaulipas in northeastern Mexico, was sentenced Wednesday in a US district court for South Texas.

Judge Rolando Olvera also ordered the ex-governor to relinquish a condominium he purchased in Port Isabel, a Texas coastal town. He had received a maximum sentence of up to 20 years.

Yarrington Ruvalcaba had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering in March 2021, admitting to US authorities that he took bribes in exchange for business contracts in the state of Tamaulipas in northeastern Mexico.

Federal prosecutor Alamdar Hamdani hailed Wednesday’s decision as “putting a corrupt politician on trial”.

“Even if you are governor of a Mexican state, we will not stand idly by if you use your position to fill your pockets illegally and violate the laws of the United States,” Hamdani said in a press release from the US law firm.

Yarrington Ruvalcaba served as governor from 1999 to 2005, during which time he allegedly accepted $3.5 million in bribes from individuals and companies hoping to forge business deals in his state.

That money was then laundered in the U.S. through luxury purchases, including cars, planes and property, including beachfront estates and condos, prosecutors said.

One of those luxury condos, in the Texas resort town of South Padre Island, was forfeited to the government in 2012. Its value was estimated at $640,000.

The ex-governor is also accused of using nominee buyers, or stooges, to mask his participation in the purchases.

A former member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of Mexico, once a major political force in the country, Yarrington Ruvalcaba ran for president in 2005.

He was charged in May 2013 and arrested while traveling abroad in Italy in April 2017. Prosecutors allege he used a false name and passport at the time. The following year, Italian authorities approved his extradition to the US.

In their statement on Wednesday, US authorities said they expect Yarrington Ruvalcaba to face “removal proceedings” to Mexico, where he is also under investigation.

The state of Tamaulipas serves as a base for one of Mexico’s most powerful criminal organizations, the Gulf Cartel.

Recently, four Americans entering Matamoros, Tamaulipas — across the border from Brownsville, Texas — were caught in a gunfight and kidnapped by gunmen. A Mexican woman was also killed in the crossfire.

Authorities searched for the victims of the kidnapping and found one alive, one injured and two dead in a wooden shack on the outskirts of town.

The Gulf Cartel’s Scorpions faction claimed credit for the kidnapping last Thursday, apologizing for violating its commitment to “respect the lives and well-being of the innocent.”

Local media reported that the cartel handed over the five responsible members to authorities and dropped them off on the street with their hands tied.