BROWNSVILLE, Texas (CN) – Fallout from the corruption probe of a former South Texas state judge continued this week as a jury convicted an attorney of bribing the judge, and a middleman was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.
Eight defendants, including former judge Abel Limas, have pleaded guilty so far, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
A jury on Monday convicted attorney Ray Marchan, 56, of Brownsville, of seven counts of public corruption.
During Marchan’s 2-week trial prosecutors presented evidence that he paid bribes and kickbacks to Limas for favorable rulings, and to be appointed an ad litem attorney on two cases.
Marchan gave Limas two cash payments, totaling $6,200, after he received ad litem fees for one case, prosecutors said.
“Limas testified as to the transactions and that the money was in return for having appointed Marchan as the ad litem attorney,” prosecutors said in a statement. “He also testified to an earlier incident when he received money from Marchan but he could not recall the specific amount.
“In a third incident, Limas received a $5,000 check on June 27, 2008. An FBI agent testified he observed Limas arrive at Marchan’s office and only spend approximately five minutes there before leaving.
“Prosecutors presented evidence proving Limas deposited the check shortly thereafter. Limas acknowledged through his testimony the payment was in return for having Limas deny a motion for sanctions filed against Marchan by opposing counsel.”
Marchan faces up to 20 years in federal prison, and a $250,000 fine on each count at his Sept. 24 sentencing.
The middleman, Jose “Meme” Longoria, 52, was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to six counts.
During his plea hearing, Longoria said he arranged a $1,500 payment to Limas from probationer Armando Pena in April 2008, and said Limas issued an order to let Pena report to state probation by mail from Arkansas.
“Longoria sought $300 for himself for arranging the deal,” prosecutors said in a statement. “On April 24, 2008, Armando Pena finalized the arrangements with Longoria and wire transferred $1,800 to Harlingen, Texas.
“FBI agents later reviewed the Armando Pena state court case file and located a progress report written by Pena’s probation officer indicating that, ‘On April 23, 2008, the Honorable Court (Limas) contacted our office in reference to allowing the defendant to report by mail.’ On May 13, 2008, Judge Limas signed an order allowing Pena to report by mail.”
FBI agents turned up more dirt on Longoria during their investigation of Limas, related to Longoria’s connection to former Cameron County District Attorney’s investigator Jaime Munivez, prosecutors said.
Longoria admitted at his plea hearing that he received a fraudulent drug-money seizure document from Munivez showing that $200,000 was seized by a DA investigator, prosecutors said. Munivez provided the document for a cash payment, prosecutors said.
“In a second drug-related incident, Longoria assisted a drug-trafficking organization in early 2008 in an attempt to recover a Georgia truck containing drug proceeds that was reported to be missing on the outskirts of the Houston area,” prosecutors said. “Longoria enlisted the help of Munivez and another person to locate the truck with the possibility of receiving up to $90,000 for recovering it.
“Ultimately, the truck was found by the Rosenberg Police Department and a total of $289,290 in drug proceeds was seized,” according to the statement.
Evidence showed Longoria also got Munivez to go to Matamoros, Mexico with him, and give information to a defendant who had a murder case pending in Cameron County, prosecutors said.
With Longoria’s help, Munivez got a $274 bicycle for the information, prosecutors said.
Limas pleaded guilty to one count of federal racketeering on March 31; he admitted he accepted more than $250,000 in bribes in exchange for favorable rulings in criminal cases.
Limas faces up to 20 years in prison at his July 5 sentencing.