Strip club was location of bribe payment in court favors scandal

Oscar De La Fuente leaving the federal courthouse in Corpus Christi

It was a money laundering case that ended up being worth tens of thousands of dollars in payouts.

Authorities had seized close to $1 million dollars from a southbound 18-wheeler in Cameron County back in June 2008.

Then-Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos filed a motion to seize both the cash and 18-wheeler.

Although the 18-wheeler owner Julio Villarreal fought in court to get the truck back, nobody claimed the cash.

Neither Villarreal nor the 18-wheeler driver Rafael Sanchez III nor passenger Ricardo Chavez claimed the alleged drug money.

With nobody coming foward to claim the cash, that left it up in the air for the government to seize.

Federal prosecutors allege that Villalobos and two favored attorneys had their own plans for the money.

Money Truck Case

Court records show that two attorneys were named in the a civil forfeiture lawsuit for the $900,000 dollars in cash.

Austin attorney Eduardo "Eddie" Lucio represented Sanchez while San Benito attorney Oscar De La Fuente represented Chavez.

As driver and passenger in the 18-wheeler, both Sanchez and Chavez were named as defendants in the money laundering forfeiture lawsuit.

Lucio approached Sanchez in jail to become his court-appointed attorney in a criminal case where a jury later found the truck driver not guilty of money laundering.

But Lucio also represented Sanchez in the forfeiture lawsuit.

De La Fuente testified at Lucio's racketeering trial in Corpus Christi on Monday that he represented Chavez in the seizure even though he had never met him.

Easy Money

Although Sanchez and Chavez had a legal right right to part of the cash, neither of them claimed it.

A final court order by Judge Leonel Alejandro in the 357th State District Court awarded their shares of the money to both De La Fuente and Lucio instead.

Federal prosecutors showed jurors a photocopy of the $42,000 check, which was made out to Lucio for representing Sanchez.

De La Fuente, who has an immunity deal in exchange for his testimony, told jurors he got paid $42,000 dollars in easy money for representing Chavez.

The San Benito attorney told jurors that he had to to very little work to get his share of cash.

De La Fuente testified that it was his longtime friend Armando Villalobos who gave him the idea to represent Chavez in the case.

Strip Club Meeting

De La Fuente testfied that after he got his check from the case, he paid Villalobos $3,000 dollars.

Although there was no specific deal, De La Fuente told jurors that it was "understood" that he would pay Villalobos after getting the referral for the case.

De La Fuente testified that he often paid Villalobos for court favors.

The San Benito attorney said those payments are why he got easy access to the district attorney and deals for his clients in court.

After getting his share of the money truck case, De La Fuente said he went to meet Villalobos at Stiletto's Night Club in Pharr.

De La Fuente testified that Villalobos, Lucio and two other attorneys were all there at the strip club.

Although the two other attorneys were not named in court, De La Fuente said he gave Villalobos cash at their strip club meeting.