As trial looms for ex-DA accused in RICO enterprise case, feds make new accusations
Posted Mar 27, 2013 12:15 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
Federally indicted on corruption charges while he was still the sitting district attorney in Cameron County, Texas, a now-former prosecutor faces new allegations in a case in which he is accused of running his office as a racketeering enterprise.
The case is allegedly part of a wider cash-for-court-favors and graft scandal, in which a former state district court judge, Abel Limas, and other South Texas lawyers have already been federally convicted.
A motion filed Friday by federal prosecutors discusses the witnesses they intend to present against Armando Villalobos at trial. It alleges that the former DA was paid a $156,000 referral fee, funneled through two different third-parties, for sending a civil wrongful death case to a Texas law firm. The fee violated state law, the feds contend, and Villalobos did not declare it on his income tax return, report KGBT and the Valley Morning Star.
Also at issue is a former employee and investigator for Villalobos' office, Carlos Justino “Justin” Ramos, who will testify for the government, according to the filing, that he paid $3,000 to get prior marijuana-related convictions expunged.
Villalobos is accused of having appointed and paid a defense attorney (who is now a sitting state district court judge) to act as a special prosecutor before then-404th State District Court Judge Abel Limas and arrange the expungement. Ramos has since been convicted in a federal marijuana-smuggling case and sentenced to a six-year prison term.
KGBT says the expungement of Ramos' earlier convictions didn't occur because state officials in Texas objected.
Attorney Joel Androphy represents Villalobos. “When the government starts adding extraneous matters, it’s generally because they are desperate in their case,” he told the Valley Morning Star on Monday, adding that if the feds believed in their indictment "they wouldn’t try to invent additional allegations.”
The ex-DA's former law partner, Eduardo “Eddie” Lucio, is also facing federal charges, but will be tried separately. Villalobos is scheduled to go to trial in May and Lucio's trial is tentatively scheduled for August, reports the Leader-News.
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