Upon nabbing former Tamaulipas Gov. Tomás Yarrington Ruvalcaba, 60, in Florence, Italy, last Sunday, the Italian police was adamant and clear in saying that they had investigated the Mexican fugitive regarding a search warrant request from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security made last February.
Upon asking him to surrender, the Italian police claim that he first denied being the person they were looking for and then produced a bogus local driver’s license with another name and a Polish nationality. Yet the Italian detectives had done their homework and the national Cosenza and the Scientific Police had no doubts that they had the right person.
Apparently the Mexican Embassy in Rome “knew nothing” and second-undersecretary Alfonso de Alba had to take care of tons of calls made by inquiring reporters from Mexico as Ambassador Juan José Guerra Abud was not available. De Alba also said that all information on Tomás Yarrington’s arrest would be handled in Mexico, though he was looked after by Embassy personnel.
Yarrington will apparently be deported to Mexico by Italy because he is a Mexican citizen, but the place where he is on the most wanted list is in the United States, where he has already been tried and sentenced in absence to two life-terms in prison. For the meantime, he’s locked up at the Sollicciano prison, the largest in Florence, but after being sent to Mexico, he will be extradited to the United States to serve his sentences.
Yarrington had been on the lam for five years, as the first arrest warrant in Mexico was issued back in 2012 accused in his home state of Tamaulipas (which borders with Texas on the Gulf of Mexico side along the Rio Grande) and was charged with organized criminal “operations” funded with money from illicit precedence, that ranges from receiving funds from drug trafficking to outright stealing public funds.
Yarrington was governor of Tamaulipas from 1999 to 2004. In his tenure, charges say, he permitted the free pass and literal territorial control of the state by “Los Zetas”, a criminal group formed by renegade Mexican Army officials who turned Tamaulipas into a state of terror that survived long after Yarrington stepped down from power.
At first glance Yarrington’s profile is not that of a criminal but that of a scholar and a politician. He studied Economics at the Technological Studies Institute of Monterrey and while in Monterrey he also acquired a law degree at the Autonomous University of Nuevo León (UANL). He’d later move to study Public Administration at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. After school he returned to his native Matamoros where he showed his love for politics joining the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in 1991 for which he was immediately elected state deputy and from 1993 to 1995 he was mayor of Matamoros, just across the border from Brownsville, Texas, where he faces most of the criminal charges he’s been slapped with.
After being Matamoros mayor, he joined the cabinet of former governor (1993-1999) and currently Senator Manuel Cavazos Lerma. Lerma and Yarrington share many things in common such as being natives of Matamoros and being economists. Yarrington was seen back in 1999 as “the natural” PRI candidate to succeed Cavazos Lerma as governor, and so he did.
After leaving the governor’s office, Yarrington became a potential presidential candidate but he lost his bid for the PRI’s nomination to Roberto Madrazo for the 2006 election, which Madrazo also lost to the National Action Party (PAN) candidate Felipe Calderón. He was kicked out as a PRI member in 2012.
Though he had been a suspect of taking money from Los Zetas as well as the then notorious Gulf Cartel that operated in the Tamaulipas-Texas border, which gave him $8.5 million to run for Tamaulipas state governor in 1999, real and solid accusations began in 2011 when — after an assassination in Nuevo Laredo — the Zetas Cartel left a note over the corpse of Alfonso Peña Argüelles that he’d been killed because his brother was laundering drug money for Yarrington. At the time it was officially made public that former governors Cavazos Lerma, Yarrington and Eugenio Hernández Flores, who preceded Cavazos and Yarrington, had links with the organized criminals operating in Tamaulipas.
Yarrington was also accused of having been an accomplice of the Zetas in the murder of 2011 PRI candidate for Governor Rodolfo Torre Cantú, gunned down by a commando.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) filed charges in San Antonio and Corpus Christi against Yarrington for having laundered massive amounts for both the Gulf and Zetas cartels. On May 12, the U.S. Federal government confiscated Yarrington’s properties in Texas as well as using third parties to invest the “grand scale” (according to the FBI) ill-gotten fortune.
There’s more to Yarrington’s story — details thrive in abundance — but at present about the only one twitting congratulations for his arrest is current Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca of the PAN who has twitted, “My recognition to @PGR.mx for the arrest of Tomás Yarrington. I’m confident that the law shall be punctually applied.”
Well, the people of Mexico are now counting as to the large amount of crooked PRI governors on the lam, but if you can count you can claim, one down and a bunch to go.