Former Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos Sentenced to Federal Prison in Connection with South Texas Bribery Scheme
|U.S. Attorney’s Office February 11, 2014|
In Brownsville today, former Cameron County District Attorney Armando R. Villalobos was sentenced to 13 years in federal prison for his role in a South Texas bribery and extortion scheme announced United States Attorney Robert Pitman.
In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ordered that Villalobos pay $339,000 in restitution, pay a $30,000 fine, and be placed under supervised release for a period of three years after completing his prison term. Judge Hanen also ordered that Villalobos be remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service following today’s sentencing hearing.
“The most important component of an effective justice system is the public’s ability to trust those who are responsible for enforcing the law. But even when there is a breach of that trust, as in this case, the public should take some comfort in knowing that there is a mechanism for detecting, rooting out, and punishing those who would corrupt the process,” stated United States Attorney Robert Pitman.
In May 2013, a federal jury convicted Villalobos of one count of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, one count of conspiracy to violate the RICO Act, and five counts of extortion. Jurors acquitted Villalobos of two counts of extortion. This afternoon, Judge Hanen granted the defendant’s motion for acquittal on an extortion count (count three) before sentencing Villalobos to 156 months’ incarceration on each of the six remaining charges all to run concurrent.
Evidence presented at trial revealed that from October 2, 2006 through May 3, 2012, Villalobos and others were involved in a scheme to illegally generate income for themselves and others through a pattern of bribery and extortion, favoritism, improper influence, personal self-enrichment, self-dealing, concealment, and conflict of interest. Jurors found that Villalobos solicited and accepted more than $100,000 in bribes and kickbacks in the form of cash and campaign contributions in return for favorable acts of prosecutorial discretion, including minimizing charging decisions, pretrial diversion agreements, agreements on probationary matters, and case dismissals. Furthermore, Villalobos solicited and arranged for private counsel to handle civil and forfeiture matters associated with criminal matters pending in the Office of the District and County Attorney of Cameron County.
This investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, and the Brownsville Police Department. Former Southern District of Texas Assistant United States Attorney Michael Wynne and current Western District of Texas Assistant United States Attorney Greg Surovic prosecuted this case on behalf of the Government.