BROWNSVILLE, Texas (CN) – A Mexican businessman on Wednesday was charged with laundering millions of dollars in bribes the Gulf Cartel paid to “high-level elected officials and candidates” in Tamaulipas.
The charges filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office include an allegation that the businessman paid bribes to to a former governor who was a presidential candidate.
Fernando Alejandro Cano Martinez, 55, of Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, was charged with conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Prosecutors said the conspiracy began in 1998.
One of the major cities in Tamaulipas, Matamoros, is a walk across a short bridge Brownsville. The state, and Matamoros itself, have been the scene of numerous massacres and gun battles between drug cartels and Mexican police forces and its army, all of which seek control of the drug trade.
“The indictment alleges Cano and others conspired to use an array of corporate entities they formed in Texas to launder portions of bribes paid by the Gulf Cartel to high level elected officials and candidates for such elected office in Tamaulipas,” according to the U.S. attorney’s statement. “Millions of dollars of assets, primarily Texas real estate, were allegedly acquired in the scheme.”
Cano is a fugitive.
In conjunction with the case, prosecutors said they filed civil actions in Corpus Christi and San Antonio against property allegedly owned by Tomas Yarrington Ruvalcaba, a former mayor of Matamoras, former Tamaulipas governor and onetime presidential candidate.
“In the [Corpus Christi] complaint, it is alleged that Yarrington used illicit proceeds to purchase a condominium located in South Padre Island, Texas, using a third party to conduct the $450,000 transaction and hold title,” prosecutors said in the statement. “In San Antonio, the United States Attorney’s Office is filing a civil action regarding a single property, purchased in 2006 for approximately $6.6 million, that was allegedly obtained with illicit funds by Yarrington, Cano and others.”
If caught and convicted, Cano faces up to 20 years in federal prison on the money laundering conspiracy charge, and 5 years for bank fraud conspiracy.
Prosecutors said they also seek a $20 million judgment on each count against Cano, and forfeiture of his airplane and several bank accounts.