Sitting judge named in Armando Villalobos corruption case

Judge David Sanchez with the 444th State District Court

An attorney who is now a sitting judge is among those named in documents filed in an ongoing cash for court favors scandal.

Federal prosecutors filed a motion against former Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos on Friday.

The former district attorney is among the 12 people charged in the public corruption scandal involving former 404th State District Judge Abel Limas.

Villalobos denies any wrongdoing but the motion filed on Friday shows that prosecutors intend to call a number of new witnesses against him.

Drug Trafficking Bribe

Prosecutors allege that 444th State District Judge David Sanchez once accepted a bribe while he was working as a defense attorney but appointed as a special prosecutor by Villalobos back in 2005.

That TMs when convicted drug trafficker Carlos Justino Justin Ramos was working as an investigator and assistant for Villalobos in the district attorney TMs office.

Ramos had past convictions for having several pounds of marijuana in Kingsville and Austin and wanted those records expunged.

According to the records, Ramos paid Villalobos $3,000 dollars in drug money to get the expungement.

Villalobos appointed Sanchez as a special prosecutor in the case and arranged through the Cameron County District Clerk TMs Office for the case to land in the 404th State District Court with Limas.

Limas allegedly told Ramos that he would go along with it as long as prosecutors did not fight it.

Ramos allegedly paid Sanchez $1,000 dollars in drug money to not fight the expungement.

Sanchez, who is the brother of Cameron County Commissioner Dan Sanchez, has not been charged in the case but records show that the expungement failed due to objections by state officials in Austin.

Ramos had to drop out of a race as Brownsville City Commissioner back in April 2005 due to his criminal past.

U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) later arrest Ramos and two others for smuggling more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana in Harlingen back in December 2010.

Ramos pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years in federal prison but prosecutors are now listing Ramos as a witness against his former boss Villalobos.

Five Other Cases

The motion also shows that prosecutors also intend to call Brownsville attorney Michael Cowen as a witness.

Cowen was an attorney in the wrongful death lawsuit filed in Austin regarding the death of Villalobos TM sister-in-law Dilia Lopez.

Prosecutors alleged that Villalobos got $156,000 dollars in cash funneled to him for the referral and that he failed to report the income on his taxes.

The motion also shows that prosecutors intend to call former Cameron County Prosecutor Rene Gonzalez to the stand.

Villalobos allegedly helped his former law partner Eduardo Eddie Lucio win a $4 million dollar police brutality lawsuit filed by Brownsville City jail inmate George Alvarez.

Prosecutors allege that Villalobos helped overturn Alvarez TMs criminal conviction to pave the way for the lawsuit.

The motion also show that Villalobos also used his office to help attorneys Marc Rosenthal and Jim Solis in a defamation lawsuit.

Villalobos allegedly had drummed up charges against former Cameron County District Attorney Yolanda De Leon to help Rosenthal and Solis win the lawsuit.

According to the motion, Solis is expected to testify against Villalobos.

The motion shows that Villalobos also used his office in an attempt to help protect himself once he found out he was likely to be indicted.

Villalobos allegedly used subpoenas from the Cameron County Grand Jury to obtain phone records for Limas, Lucio and his former top prosecutor Charles Chuck Mattingly back in February 2012.

In a sixth and final incident, prosecutors allege Villalobos tried to use public funds to pay for his housing shortly after he was indicted in May 2012.

The motion shows that Villalobos was separating from his wife but wanted to rent a duplex in Harlingen from his then-District Attorney TMs Office employee Jenny Camacho.

Prosecutors contend that the price was too high, so Villalobos wanted to pay part of it and pay the rest by increasing her salary at work.

Camacho declined to the offer and is now expected to testify against her former boss.