Documents detail alleged sting operations in Yzaguirre’s office

Two more probable cause affidavits that led to the arrest earlier this month of Cameron County Tax assessor Collector Tony Yzaguirre Jr. were released Tuesday to The Brownsville Herald by the Texas Department of Public Safety following a public information request by the newspaper.

The affidavits detail sting operation exchanges that allegedly took place on Oct. 7, 2015 and Nov. 15, 2015 in Yzaguirre’s office on East Harrison Street in which Yzaguirre reportedly accepted cash bribes from an undercover unnamed cooperating individual (CI).

Yzaguirre was one of four men from the Cameron County Tax Office arrested Jan. 6, in a multi-agency investigation that temporarily shut down operations at the tax office in an operation dubbed “Dirty Deeds.”

Yzaguirre was charged with four counts of bribery, a second-degree felony; engaging in organized criminal activity, a first-degree felony; and official oppression, a class A misdemeanor.

County tax investigator Pedro Garza was charged with bribery, engaging in organized criminal activity and official oppression.

Dealer/notary supervisor Omar Sanchez-Paz was charged with engaging in organized criminal activity and abuse of official capacity, a class A misdemeanor.

Jose Mireles was charged with bribery, engaging in organized criminal activity and official oppression.

The men were arrested and booked at the Carrizalez-Rucker Detention Center the same day, where they were later released on a personal recognizance bond issued by Magistrate Judge Alfredo Padilla.

The newly released affidavit claims Yzaguirre accepted an envelope with $200 cash from the CI to register two vehicles a 1998 Honda CR-V and a 2012 Jeep Liberty, without the CI having to wait in line or having staff at the tax office verify the identification documents presented by the CI.

According to the affidavit, the CI was able to immediately enter the secured area of Yzaguirre’s office for a one-on-one meeting on Oct. 7, and Nov. 15, 2015.

According to one of the affidavits, the CI took the vehicle registration documents, money and recording devices into the Yzaguirre’s office Oct. 7, 2015 to register a 2000 Honda Civic and a 2008 Dodge Charger. Yzaguirre reportedly called Sanchez Paz to his office and gave him the registration documents. Sanchez Paz allegedly returned to the office with the completed vehicle registrations.

Once the registrations were paid for, the CI took a white envelope from atop Yzaguirre’s desk and allegedly placed two $100 bills inside before closing it and leaving it on Yzaguirre’s desk, the affidavit states.

The other affidavit claims on Nov. 15, 2015 Yzaguirre allegedly called a clerk to his office and handed him the information for a Jeep Liberty and Honda CR-V which were to be registered. The clerk reportedly returned with the registration documents.

Once the CI took hold of the registration documents, the CI took a white envelope from atop Yzaguirre’s desk and allegedly placed two $100 bills inside before closing it and leaving it on Yzaguirre’s desk, the affidavit states.

Yzaguirre’s attorneys have said the charges against the county tax assessor-collector were unfounded attempts from Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz to benefit Saenz’ upcoming election campaign.

At a hearing on Jan. 21, prosecutors from the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office attempted to revoke the personal recognizance bonds against the four men on the basis that Padilla didn’t have the authority to issue the bond. Padilla denied the motion.