Defense Attorney Faces Up to 30 Years

     SAN ANTONIO (CN) - A criminal defense attorney forged judicial signatures regarding inflated charges for representing indigent clients, and pleaded guilty to two felony charges before her trial began.
     Hilda Valadez, 51, was charged in August 2012 with 46 counts of forgery, tampering with a government record, securing the execution of a document by deception and theft by deception.
     At one time, Valadez was the attorney paid the most money by Bexar County for representing indigent defendants, Bexar County District Attorney Susan D. Reed said.
     After jury selection began Tuesday afternoon, Valadez pleaded guilty to one count of forgery and one count of securing the execution of a document by deception.
     She must pay $80,000 in restitution under the plea agreement, and faces up to 10 years in state prison. Reed opposes her application for probation.
     Securing execution of a document by deception is a second-degree felony punishable by 2 to 20 years in state prison. Forgery is a third-degree felony punishable by 2 to 10 years.
     Bexar County officials began investigation Valadez in October 2011 after inconsistencies were found in two attorney fee expense claim forms she submitted.
     "Further investigation conducted by the Bexar County District Attorney's Office uncovered alleged inconsistencies with vouchers purportedly signed by retired 290th District Court Judge Sharon MacRae and 226th District Court Judge Sid Harle," prosecutors said in a statement in August 2012.
     "The indictment alleges a total of 22 vouchers that contain signatures that were not authorized by Judges Harle, MacRae, and McGinty for a total of 46 offense counts." Valadez also agreed to debrief Reed's office and "and continue to provide information to federal authorities concerning her knowledge of alleged courthouse corruption."