Cameron Co. Tax-Assessor Collector’s Trial Underway
CORPUS CHRISTI – The trial for the Cameron County tax-assessor collector is underway in Nueces County.
Tony Yzaguirre Jr. is facing 22 counts for bribery and abuse of official capacity. State District Judge Juan Banales dropped one charge of organized criminal activity.
A DPS investigator that was crucial in building the case against Yzaguirre took the stand in court on Thursday. He told jurors, made up of nine women and four men, about the undercover operation to allegedly catch Yzaguirre taking bribes from people transferring fake titles.
Investigator Rene Olivarez said Yzaguirre was taking bribes from a car dealer in order to get car titles transferred without the necessary documentation – insurance and valid driver’s licenses. He said his informant would meet with Yzaguirre in his office and make the transfer for the used cars.
Olivarez testified that he would give his informant money to pay for the titles, but each time after leaving Yzaguirre’s office he’d be short on the change. The investigators told the jury that’s because Yzaguirre was taking $100 for each car title that was transferred.
Defense attorney Eddie Lucio, no relation to the state senator or representative, got to cross examine around 2:00 p.m.
Lucio argued that the informant was a car dealer, and car dealers aren’t required to submit information about insurance or driver’s license to Yzaguirre’s office. He added that he was arrested and publicly humiliated for something that isn’t a crime.
The investigator admitted on stand he didn’t know the law applicable to car dealers obtaining titles.
The defense went on to attempt to paint a picture of an overzealous investigator who didn’t pay attention to possible red flags and other investigators’ doubts about Yzaguirre acting illegally.
State prosecutor Peter Gillman said he isn’t worried about the defense.
The jury was dismissed earlier than expected. They were set to listen to an audio recording that’s mostly in Spanish, where allegedly Yzaguirre is heard taking a bribe. Since there was no translator available, the judge receded for the day. The audio will be heard on Friday.
Lucio, Yzaguirre’s attorney, was charged for bribery in connection to the former Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos. He was acquitted of those charges by a jury in Corpus Christi back in 2013.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS will continue to report updates from the courtroom.
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