Add cartel blood money to the list of inputs contributing to San Antonio real estate development. A money laundering probe stretching from Nuevo Laredo to San Antonio tied to one of Mexico's most vicious drug gangs has begun to circle a former well-known Mexican border governor and presidential candidate. In federal court filings last week and earlier this year, U.S. authorities claim Tomás Yarrington Ruvalcaba, governor of Tamaulipas from 1999 to 2005, took millions from Mexican drug cartels in exchange for providing political influence and cover. Although he's not been charged in the U.S., federal prosecutors here have tagged Yarrington in a growing bribery case stretching to major San Antonio real estate holdings.
An indictment filed in Brownsville last week claims Mexican businessman Fernando Alejandro Cano Martinez of Ciudad Victoria took millions in cash from the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas, once the Gulf Cartel's brutal enforcers who have since turned on their former patrons. The indictment claims Cano and others set up a handful of shell companies and partnerships in San Antonio and elsewhere to launder cash from drug traffickers to high-level elected officials and other political candidates in Tamaulipas.
In 2005, Cano and others formed Premier International Holdings, Ltd and Cantera-Parkway Development Partners of SA. Corporate filings for both list an office building at the corner of Broadway and Sunset, where GMC Cantera Corp., one of several entities tied to Cano, maintains an office. As first reported by the Express-News last week, the Drug Enforcement Administration raided the office following news of Cano's indictment. Cano also set up two other local LLCs, Culebra SA 179 Management and Culebra SA 104 Management, through which he bought up nearly 300 acres of Bexar County development property, federal prosecutors say. Authorities have yet to find and arrest Cano.
City records show Cantera-Parkway filed lobbying disclosure forms as recently as this year. Calls to listed company numbers for comment were either not returned or led to disconnected lines. The law firm listed in city records for Cantera-Parkway, Brown & Ortiz P.C., did not return calls for comment. Virtually all of the companies the feds charge Cano of starting with cartel cash list an address near the Brownsville Country Club in corporate filings.
Tied to Cano's case, in separate civil filings last week, federal prosecutors are trying to seize a South Padre Island condo they claim Yarrington bought with the bribe money, as well as as swath of land in San Antonio. "Yarrington, during and after leaving public office in Mexico, began investing large sums of these illicit funds in real estate in Texas and Mexico using specific front-men and corporate business elites," court documents say. Federal prosecutors have filed to seize 46 acres on La Cantera Parkway here in town, worth some $6.6 million. Though a federal judge has sealed the facts in that case, prosecutors last week issued a statement claiming that property was "obtained with illicit funds by Yarrington, Cano, and others."