Published on August 25th, 2013 | by Daniel R. Perlman0
Former Judge Involved In Racketeering Gets 6 Years
A former judge who turned his South Texas courtroom into a money-making operation was sentenced Wednesday to six years in prison followed by three years of supervised release.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen sentenced former state district Judge Abel Limas, 59, on one count of racketeering in Brownsville, on the border with Mexico. He also ordered Limas to pay almost $6.8 million in restitution.
In a tearful statement Limas made to the court before he was sentenced, he said that he willingly had done everything the government asked of him because as a former police officer, lawyer and judge, he knew the “writing was on the wall.”
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s sentence exceeded the 4 1/2 years requested by prosecutors.
Limas drew the FBI’s attention in late 2007 as he neared the end of his second term in office. Investigators intercepted some 40,000 phone calls and collected surveillance photos documenting how Limas had converted his courtroom into a criminal enterprise, collecting bribes and kickbacks totaling $257,000.
Limas pleaded guilty in 2011 and became the government’s star witness in four related trials that shook Cameron County’s justice system. He could have faced up to 20 years in prison but received credit for cooperation.
Racketeering is a charge typically associated with organized crime. But in Limas’ case, prosecutors said his courtroom was the criminal enterprise where he generated cash.
Limas took kickbacks from friends, accepting thousands of dollars for favorable rulings. In one case, he accepted $5,000 in cash handed to him in a McDonald’s bag by then Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos, just to keep his mouth shut.
In March 2010, Limas was summoned to by the FBI. A year later, he pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering and agreed to cooperate with authorities.
Limas talked to the FBI more than three-dozen times and became federal prosecutors’ star witness at all four trials that followed. He helped take down the sitting district attorney and a former state lawmaker, and cast doubt on a large chunk of the Cameron County bar.
Even beyond the dozen people charged in the investigation, Limas implicated many more attorneys in his testimony for practices that were at a minimum unethical.
On Wednesday, Limas’ attorney Chip Lewis told the court that since his arrest, Limas had moved in with his son’s family in Katy, Texas, and was working dawn-to-dusk as a construction supervisor.
Limas, who relinquished his law license, told Hanen: “Never will I sit again. Never will I practice again.”
Source: huffingtonpost.com “Former Judge Involved In Racketeering Gets 6 Years,” August 26, 2013.