White-Collar Crime

Former district attorney gets 13 years in federal corruption case over his work as a prosecutor

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Convicted last year on seven counts in a corruption case in which he was accused of running his Texas office as a racketeering enterprise, former Cameron County District Attorney Armando R. Villalobos was sentenced Tuesday to 13 years in federal prison.

Villalobos was one of a number of lawyers involved with a now-convicted former South Texas judge, Abel Limas, who admittedly accepted cash for court favors. Some members of the group, including Villalobos, were accused of participating in a scheme in which a convicted murderer was not immediately taken into custody. His forfeited $500,000 cash bond, after he failed to return in 60 days to serve his 23-year sentence, was split among the family of the victim, Hermila Hernandez, a former law partner of Villalobos (he was not convicted), Villalobos, who was the then-DA, and Limas, a sitting judge at the time. A Valley Morning Star article reported in May about trial testimony concerning the claimed kickbacks and the Brownsville Herald reported in 2007, and afterward, about the break given to convicted murderer Amit Livingston.

The victim’s mother has said family members, who speak little English, didn’t understand the plea deal in the criminal case would allow her daughter’s killer to become a fugitive, according to news reports.

At Tuesday’s sentencing in Brownsville, lawyers for Villalobos asked for probation and home confinement, and the government sought a sentence at the upper end of federal guidelines, the Brownsville Herald reported. The Valley Morning Star also has the same story.

“Mr. Villalobos was selling people’s lives. He was selling justice,” said assistant U.S. attorney Greg Surovic.

Villalobos’ conduct contravened his responsibilities as the county’s chief law enforcement officer, the prosecutor continued, arguing that local residents will now question the fairness of the justice system for years to come. “He has done incalculable damage.”

Multiple counts for which Villalobos was convicted carried a maximum prison term of 20 years.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “As trial looms for ex-DA accused in RICO enterprise case, feds make new accusations”

ABAJournal.com: “Ex-judge gets 6 years in bribe case as ex-DA awaits sentencing; murder victim’s mom gets no apology”

ABAJournal.com: “Lawyer gets 20 years in judicial bribery case, is ordered to pay $12M restitution”

San Antonio Express-News: “Former Cameron County DA will be sentenced Tuesday”

Valley Morning Star: “Lawyer receives suspension from State Bar of Texas”

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