Undercover Recordings Played for Jury in Cameron Co. Tax-Assessor Collector’s Trial

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CORPUS CHRISTI – Defense lawyers for the Cameron County tax-assessor collector continued their cross examination of the lead investigator in the case.

DPS Investigator Rene Olivarez was on the stand for more than a day.

About 10 video and audio recordings were played for the jury on Friday. They were undercover recordings that were attained during the investigation.

Informant Mel Sosa was wearing the recording devices during his meetings with Tony Yzaguirre.

Only one recording showed Yzaguirre on camera. No video showed him taking money.

Although Yzaguirre could be heard in some undercover videos, only one showed a clear shot of him in his office. In that particular video, he is seen reviewing some documents as he’s talking with the alleged informant working with authorities.

Defense attorney Eddie Lucio highlighted one of the videos, in which two other investigators that took part in the investigation could be heard saying that Yzaguirre wasn’t taking the money at his office.

One investigator is heard saying she had discussed it with her supervisor.

Some of the audio was in Spanish, but it was so bad that the translator couldn’t decipher what was being said.

In another video, a tax office employee is seen and heard telling Olivarez that she didn’t know what she did was “bad.” Olivarez testified that she was accessing a secure database.

Lucio said she did it to check if a title transfer was good.

Another video showed recorded conversation with the informant. Olivarez asked why he believes Yzaguirre is taking his money. The informant said he didn’t know, adding it may have been going towards Yzaguirre’s campaign.

Then, Lucio asked investigator Olivarez to leave the stand and perform a pat down on him to demonstrate to the jury how investigators were searching their informant to make sure he wasn’t pocketing the money.

Lucio argued the investigators were questioning any wrongdoing by Yzaguirre, and Olivarez failed to pay attention to their concern because it didn’t fit his “theory” that Yzaguirre was taking money.

The prosecution was able to question their witness shortly after 2:00 p.m. when the defense passed the witness.

Lead prosecutor immediately went back to the video recording in which one of Yzaguirre’s employees was being interviewed by investigators about her experience at the tax office.

Jurors saw the entire recorded interview that DPS and the FBI conducted with Marisol Cifuentes. She was arrested in connection to the case, and then cleared of the charges.

The clip sounded contradictory and often confusing. At one point, Cifuentes stated she was frustrated at how many title transfer hearings the county was conducting.

The DPS investigator is heard saying Cameron County was holding about 500 title transfer hearings per year. It is unusually high, according to investigators. These were held when all the necessary documentation wasn’t presented.

The investigator is also heard saying Cifuentes committed a crime when she used another employee’s information to sign into a database to check a title transfer. She responded that she was only doing her job trying to make sure all the paperwork was in line.

She went on to say that she was surprised Yzaguirre was arrested because she never saw any illegal activity take place.

Throughout the clip, she insisted she would reject titles that didn’t meet the criteria and continuously tell investigators, “I don’t know what else you want me to tell you.”

At the end of the recording the prosecution rested after making the point that it was Cifuentes entry into the restricted and secured databases that set off red flags.

The day ended with the lead DPS investigators being excused from the witness stand.

On Monday the prosecution plans to put Sosa on the stand, the man who allegedly bribed Yzaguirre

Some of the videos were in Spanish. The judge instructed jurors that speak and understand Spanish not to make their own interpretation of them, only to consider what the translator said. 

One of the main points brought up in Cameron County about the case and why it needed to be moved to Nueces County was all the media attention. The judge instructed defense attorneys and prosecutors not to talk to the media.

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