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Mexican corruption probe stretches to SA, tags former Tamaulipas gov

Photo: , License: N/A

Photo: , License: N/A

Tomás Yarrington took to his Twitter feed last week to clear up any rumors, telling followers, "I have not been detained. I do not face criminal charges. I'm very calm."

Yarrington's Houston-based attorney Joel Androphy said his client hasn't been charged with a crime and denied Yarrington's ties to any of the men indicted, their companies, or property holdings. "They're making claims against the property using his name but it's not his property, it never has been his property," Androphy said.

While Mexico's opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, last week moved to distance itself from Yarrington and possibly even expel him from the party as it heads into the country's July 1 presidential election, Yarrington (who is not speaking to the media) took to his own Twitter feed to dispel rumors he'd been arrested or indicted. "I have not been detained," he wrote last week. "I do not face criminal charges. I'm very calm."

Detailed allegations against Yarrington first popped up in an indictment filed in San Antonio federal court in February. Just as U.S. authorities first began to finger Yarrington in the corruption and money-laundering probe, Mexican authorities began to acknowledge Yarrington was one of three former governors at the heart of a corruption probe there.

On Febuary 8, the feds raided the Stone Oak-area home of Antoino Peña-Arguelles, arresting him on money-laundering charges. An affidavit filed by the DEA in the case lobs serious charges Yarrington's way, calling Peña the conduit between Yarrington and Zetas cartel members Miguel Treviño-Morales, the cartel's No. 2 man, and Zetas leader Heriberto Lazcano, a former military trooper often called "the Executioner."

Starting around 2000, federal prosecutors say, Peña-Arguelles also laundered millions for Osiel Cardenas-Guillen, former Gulf Cartel head now imprisoned in the U.S., in exchange for political cover inside Tamaulipas. "This relationship started with the election of Governor Tomas Yarrington and continued with the replacement of other PRI candidates in government throughout Tamaulipas who could ensure favorable protection for the cartels," the criminal complaint against Peña-Arguelles states.

But by last year Peña-Arguelles' relationship with the Zetas had turned. In late November authorities found the body of Peña-Arguelles' brother dumped at the foot of Nuevo Laredo's Christopher Columbus monument with a banner with a long, rambling screed claiming Peña-Arguelles stole $5 million from the Zetas, and even accused him of ordering the death of Rodolfo Torre Cantu, the 2010 Tamaulipas candidate for governor gunned down days before the election.

According to court records, one confidential informant spilled information to DEA investigators on Peña-Arguelles, including his close dealings with Yarrington, so that he "would be protected from the Zetas who are trying to murder him."

The morning Peña-Arguelles' brother's body was found, he got a text from the Zetas, court records state. The message: Don't be an idiot. Don't steal from us. We know where you're hiding.

"Your brother also told me about the assumed names of the properties that you have with Osiel (Cardenas of the Gulf Cartel) and I know they're in Laredo, Texas and San Antonio," the text read. "There will not be a safe place for you, Mr. Tono, so good luck." •

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