Criminal Justice

Lawyer known as 'DWI Dude' is convicted for shakedown of Colombian drug clients

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A Texas lawyer who markets himself as the “DWI Dude” has been found guilty on federal corruption charges for a scheme to shake down three Colombian drug clients.

Jurors convicted 62-year-old Jamie Balagia on Tuesday after deliberating for about a day and a half, report the Dallas Morning News and the San Antonio Express-News.

Balagia and his co-conspirators were accused of getting the clients to pay inflated attorney fees with promises that the money would be used to pay bribes to high-level officials in exchange for dropped charges or lower sentences.

In reality there were no bribes or compromised government officials, prosecutors said in a press release.

Prosecutors said Balagia and his co-conspirators earned about $1.5 million in the scheme.

Balagia was accused of participating in the scheme with his investigator and a Colombian lawyer. Balagia had argued he was duped and manipulated by the investigator, a former secret government informant.

Balagia was found guilty of obstruction of justice; conspiracy to commit money laundering, obstruct justice and commit wire fraud; and violation of the Kingpin Act, which bars the acceptance of money from people who have been designated as significant drug traffickers.

Balagia is a former Austin police officer who ran for Texas attorney general in 2014 on a Libertarian platform of legalizing marijuana. He was known both as DWI Dude for his drunken driving practice and 420 Dude for defending clients charged with marijuana possession.

The press release issued by the U.S. attorney’s office included a photo of a camper plastered with an ad for Balagia: “Busted? Call the Dude!” it read.

Balagia’s lawyers said they believed there will be an appeal.

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