Former Mexico governor extradited to US to face drug charges

BROWNSVILLE, Texas — The former governor of the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas has been extradited from Italy to the United States to face charges of racketeering, drug smuggling, money laundering and bank fraud, federal officials announced Friday.

Italy extradited Tomas Yarrington Ruvalcaba after detaining him on April 8 on the warrant from the United States.

From 1999 to February 2005, Ruvalcaba was governor of Tamaulipas, which is one of Mexico's most violent states and borders Texas to the north and the Gulf of Mexico to the east.

Prosecutors say Yarrington, 61, received millions of dollars in bribes since 1998 from the Gulf Cartel and in return allowed traffickers to bring large amounts of cocaine into the U.S. The payments started when he was a candidate for governor of Tamaulipas and continued after the end of his tenure in December 2004, according to the indictment.

The indictment also alleges that from 2007 to 2009, Yarrington became involved in drug trafficking.

Prosecutors also allege that Yarrington collected bribes from commercial operations and was involved in the acquisition of valuable assets in the U.S., such as bank accounts and residences. The indictment says that toward the end of his stint as governor, Yarrington acquired stolen public funds that were later used to buy a private jet.

Another man who was indicted with Yarrington — Fernando Cano Martinez, also 61, who remains a fugitive — is accused of paying bribes to Yarrington in exchange for public works contracts for his construction firm. One way he would pay bribes is by purchasing real estate for Yarrington using front names.

U.S. authorities have won civil forfeiture claims on a fully furnished beachfront apartment in South Padre Island, Texas, as well as a private plane, a $2 million house in McAllen and cash in a Bermuda account. Proceeds from seizures routinely go to law enforcement agencies involved in the cases.

No attorney is listed for either in court documents.

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