Case numbers match attorneys to Limas racketeering case

Case numbers released in a plea agreement filed by former 404th State District Judge Abel Limas may link several local attorneys to the case.

Limas pleaded guilty in a federal racketeering case in late March.

The former judge admitted to getting $257,300 dollars in bribes for favorable court rulings.

Federal court officials unsealed the plea agreement and other records in Limas TM case on Thursday afternoon.

The unsealed plea packet memo links Limas to middleman Jose Manuel Longoria.

No charges have been filed but the document also links four attorneys to the racketeering case.

The plea packet memo also shows that members of Limas' family may have known about the scheme.

Court records show that there are no charges filed against them either.

Valley AirCare Lawsuit

According to the plea packet memo, Limas wanted a 10 percent cut of a $14 million dollar settlement in the Valley AirCare crash case.

The lawsuit was filed by family members of paramedics killed in a February 2008 helicopter crash in the Laguna Madre.

The plea packet memo shows that one month before he left office, Limas had the case transferred to "his friend" Judge Leonel Alejandro in the 357th State District Court.

Action 4 News reported a $14 million dollar settlement in the case in the 357th State District Court back in October 2009.

Court records filed in the plea agreement for Limas show that he got kickbacks for favorable rulings in case.

The plea agreement show two attorneys only identified as Person A and Person C allegedly paid Limas $100,000 dollars to be an on counsel attorney with their law firm.

According to the plea packet, Limas got another $85,000 dollars in December 2009, two months after the case was settled.

Public records show that attorneys representing the paramedics TM families in case were listed as Marc Rosenthal and Jim Solis, a former Texas state representative from Harlingen now in private practice.

Attorneys Charles Smith of Dallas and Mike Mills of McAllen represented the company that owns Valley AirCare.

Peter Zavaletta Lawsuit

Rosenthal TMs name also came up in another case listed in the Limas plea packet memo.

The case number listed matches a March 2008 lawsuit involving former Cameron County District Attorney TMs Office candidate Peter Zavaletta.

The lawsuit involved several local men upset their former Cameron County District Attorney leaked confidential child abuse documents to Zavaletta for a campaign ad.

The plea agreement shows that Person A asked Person C to pay Limas $8,000 dollars for favorable rulings in the defamation/invasion of privacy case.

Limas TM plea agreement show that he failed to report a conflict of interest in the case but eventually moved it to the 357th State District Court.

Records in the lawsuit show that Marc Rosenthal, Oscar de la Fuente, Robert Lerma and Paul Forth represented the plaintiffs.

The defendants, which included Zavaletta and a company that owns several local newspapers, were represented by Tom Lockhart, Brian Janis, Josh Bussin, Jeffrey Noble, Nathan Hogan and Ed Stapleton.

Ad Litem Appointment

The plea packet memo shows that an attorney identified as Person D paid $4,500 dollars to get appointed as an ad litem attorney in a December 2005 lawsuit, which ended in a $7 million dollar settlement.

An ad litem attorney is one appointed to oversee an estate or act as a guardian for a child or an incapacitated adult.

The plea agreement show that Person D got a $12,000 dollar check in October 2008 and paid Limas $4,500 dollars.

Court records show that 15 attorneys were involved in the case but Limas appointed Brownsville-based attorney Ray Marchan as an ad litem in the case back in January 2008.

Action 4 News spoke to Marchan at his Brownsville home on Friday afternoon.

Marchan declined to comment and referred all questions to his attorney Noe Garza, who did not return calls seeking comment.

Aide Fink Case

Marchan TMs name also comes out in a May 2006 lawsuit mentioned the Limas plea agreement.

The plea packet memo shows that Person D paid $5,000 dollars to Limas after his client Aide Fink missed a court hearing and the defendants filed a motion for sanction her.

Court records show that Ray Marchan and Joseph Moreno represented Fink while San Benito-based attorney Randall P. Crane represented the defendants.

Sex Offender Probation Ended

Lima TMs plea packet memo also shows that he accepted a $4,000 dollars bribe from an attorney identified as Person E to modify the probation for convicted sex offender Frizo Valero.

Texas Sex Offender Registry records show that 40-year-old Cameron Park received 10 years probation for the rape of a 16-year-old girl back in March 2002.

Limas admitted to taking $2,000 dollars from Person E to end Valero TMs probation back and dismiss the charges back in December 2008.

Court records show that Valero TMs lawyer in the case was listed as Brownsville-based attorney Joe Valle.

Action 4 News attempted to contact Valle by phone but did not receive a return call.

Court records show that Valero's case is under appeal in the Texas 13th Court of Appeals.

Case Referral

Another case involving Valle pops up on a September 2009 lawsuit listed in Limas TM plea agreement.

The plea packet memo shows that Limas coerced Person E to refer his case to a law firm belonging to Person A and Person C.

Limas got $15,000 dollars in the deal and Person E got $25,000 dollars.

Court records show that Valle was listed as the original attorney in the lawsuit.

8-Liner Machines

The Limas plea packet memo shows that Person E also helped the former judge get 68 seized 8-liner gambling machines, which belonged to an acquaintance.

Limas used the attorney to buy the seized machines from the Cameron County District Attorney TMs Office.

Person E turned over the machines to Limas TM acquaintance, in an attempt to avoid a paper trail.

No case numbers were listed in the 8-liners incident.

Middleman Jailed

Jose Manuel Longoria, the only other person publicly named in the case, remains in custody pending trial.

The 52-year-old San Benito man is accused of being a middleman between Limas and others looking to exchange cash for political favors on at least four occasions.

Longoria and Limas used code words such as calabazas or "candy" or tacos or golf balls or "signs" as a secret code language for bribes.

The plea agreement show that Longoria even joked with Limas TM wife about them.

Family Knowledge?

No charges are filed against Limas' wife or sone but the plea packet memo shows they may have known about the scheme.

The Limas plea packet memo shows that federal agents recorded telephone conversations between Longoria and the former judge's wife.

During the calls, Longoria would give a message with the secret code words.

During one conversation with Longoria, Genevieve Limas joked around with each other and discussed the status of a probation case.

According to the plea packet, federal agents also recorded telephone calls between Limas, his wife and their son.

Limas said in the calls that he was expecting to get 10 percent of the Valley AirCare crash settlement.

Federal agents have another recorded between Limas and his attorney son shortly after Limas lost his March 2008 re-election bid.

Limas told his son that certain people were going to help with the finances and were each goin tto contribute $6,000 each for the next eight months.

No Other Charges

Action 4 News has carefully monitored federal court cases since Limas first turned himself in.

There have been several sealed cases filed in Brownsville's federal courthouse since then.

But no other attorneys or people other than Limas or Longoria have been publicly named or charged in the case.

Limas remains free on a $50,000 unsecured bond.

Federal prosecutors are remaining tight-lipped about the case, which remains under investigation and pending in court.

Court records show that Limas is scheduled for sentencing on July 5th.

The former judge faces 10 years to life in prison and a $4,000,000 dollar fine.