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USA Takes Corrupt|Politician’s Condo

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (CN) - A $640,000 South Padre Island condo owned by a corrupt former Mexican governor and presidential candidate has been forfeited to Uncle Sam, federal prosecutors said.

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Tomas Yarrington, former governor of Tamaulipas, owned the condo, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.

Tamaulipas, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas, has been riddled with drugs and corruption for decades.

"The government alleged, as its basis for forfeiture, that the condominium was involved in a money laundering transaction, that the property constitutes or was derived from proceeds traceable to drug trafficking, and that the property is traceable to proceeds regarding an exchange for a controlled substance," prosecutors said in the statement.

Yarrington was mayor of Matamoros from 1992 to 1995, governor of Tamaulipas from 1999 to 2004, and was a Mexican presidential candidate in 2005.

Matamoros is Brownsville's twin city, south of the border.

"From 1998 to at least 2005, the complaint states that Yarrington acquired millions of dollars in payments while holding elected office from large-scale drug organizations operating in and through the Mexican State of Tamaulipas and from various extortion or bribery schemes," prosecutors said. (Graph 4)

Citing a civil forfeiture complaint, prosecutors said the condo was titled in the name of Napoleon Rodriguez, a straw purchaser for Yarrington.

Rodriguez is incarcerated in Mexico, prosecutors said.

"Court records indicate Yarrington, during and after leaving public office, began investing large sums of these illicit funds in real estate in Texas and Mexico using specific front-men and corporate business entities," prosecutors said in the statement.

"After and during his unsuccessful campaign to become president of Mexico, the complaint alleges he used his illicit income from his political years to become a major real estate investor through various money laundering mechanisms.

"His alleged co-conspirators agreed to help Yarrington launder the millions in proceeds from drug trafficking activities through real estate investments in the United States, according to court records.

"In or about December 1998, Rodriguez allegedly purchased the condominium in his name as a nominee or straw man for Yarrington at Yarrington's request.

"Yarrington put the condominium in Rodriguez's name to avoid detection of the asset by law enforcement.

"The actual total purchase price paid for the property was $450,000. According to the warranty deed, $300,000 of the purchase price was financed and secured by a vendor's lien and by a deed of trust.

"The lien was later released, less than a year after purchase, on April 20, 1999. The complaint alleges the condominium was paid for entirely with Yarrington drug trafficking proceeds and with currency provided to Rodriguez by Yarrington. All of the routine maintenance fees and yearly taxes are paid for by Yarrington."

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos granted the government's motion to forfeit the condo.

"The government expects the property to be sold at public auction in the near future," prosecutors said.

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