Cameron County DA indicted for racketeering
Mon, 07 May 2012 17:43:53 GMT —
A federal grand jury has indicted Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos as part of the Abel Limas cash for court favors scandal.
Action 4 News has confirmed that a special federal grand jury convened on Monday morning.
The grand jury handed down a 34-page indictment against Villalobos and his form law partner Eduardo "Eddie" Lucio.
Lucio is a defense attorney from Austin and not State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. or his son State Rep. Eddie Lucio III.
Both Villalobos and Lucio are accused of using the Cameron County District Attorney's Office to make tens of thousands of dollars.
During a Monday morning press conference, Villalobos denied any allegeations.
Both Villalobos and Lucio appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Morgan in Brownsville early Monday afternoon.
In a motion filed on Monday morning, Villalobos asked to be notified if and when he's indicted and to allow him to voluntarily surrender.
According to the motion, Villalobos argued that he's not a flight risk and that his "safety will be jeopardized" if arrested and placed in jail.
Judge Recio gave both of them $50,000 dollar bonds but put heavy travel restrictions and other conditions against them.
According to the 34-page indictment, Villalobos is accused of, "favoritism, extortion, improper influence, personal self-enrichment, self-dealing, concealment and conflict of interest."
Villalobos is accused of 12 charges ranging from racketeering and extortion to mail fraud by accepting and soliciting bribes for favors in forfeiture and civil lawsuits.
His former private law practice partner Lucio is accused of seven charges of racketeering, extortion and mail fraud as part of the same indictment.
The indictment alleges that some of the bribes were allegedly submitted in the form of "campaign contributions" to Villalobos.
Among the cases listed, is the flight of convicted murder Amit Livingston. Some say the case cost Limas his re-election bid as judge back in 2008.
Livingston admitted to killing Edinburg teacher Hermila Hernandez on South Padre Island but was allowed to stay out on a $500,000 dollar bond in to "put his affairs in order."
The Rockport man never appeared in court to report for his 23-year sentencing and law enforcement officials assume he fled back to his native country India.
Page 20 of the indictment, lists a murder case involving murder suspect "A L" who receiving a 23-year sentence and had to forfeit a $500,000 dollar bond after not appearing in court.
The family of Hermila Hernandez got $300,000 dollars in a civil settlement from the bond forfeiture.
But the indictment alleges that Lucio got $200,000 dollars and then turned around and gave Villalobos an $80,000 dollars in two cash payments.
Livingston is still list as one of Cameron County's 'Most Wanted Fugitives' to this day.
The indictment also lists another incident where authorities had seized an 18-wheeler and $900,000 dollars back in June 2008.
Villalobos is accued of having Lucio and an attorney only identified as "Person G" file legal paperwork in the civil forfeiture lawsuit.
According to the indictment, Villalobos agreed to settle the case in court handing 18-wheeler back to the owner but awarding $42,000 dollars each to Lucio and Person G.
The indictment accuses Lucio and Person G of each giving Villalobos $5,000 dollars for the settlement.
During his Monday morning press conference, Villalobos called into question the timing of the investigation.
Villalobos is among eight Democrats vying for the U.S. Congress District 34 race in the May 29th primary election. Three Republicans are also competing for the seat.
According to his campaign website, Villalobos graduated from San Benito High School in 1986, the University of Texas at Austin in 1990 and Southern Methodist University Law School in 1993.
Villalobos was swept into office in an anti-corruption campaign back in 2004 and easily won re-election in 2008.
According to his campaign website, Villalobos oversees more than 100 employees at the District Attorney TMs Office.
After months of speculation, Villalobos officially announced his bid for U.S. Congress in December 2011.
Action 4 News will provide more information as it becomes available.