Probationer Who Paid Bribe in Limas Corruption Case Sentenced
|U.S. Attorney’s Office March 06, 2012|
BROWNSVILLE, TX—A state probationer charged for his role in former State District Judge Abel Limas’ scheme to solicit and accept bribes in exchange for official action has been sentenced to prison, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Armando Pena, 30, of Brownsville, Texas, entered a guilty plea in July 2011 to aiding and abetting honest services wire fraud and was sentenced today to 27 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen.
The charge against Pena arose from investigation by the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Brownsville Police Department into former State District Judge Abel Corral Limas’ use of his position as the judge of that court to solicit and accept money from persons with cases pending in his court for favorable rulings or orders. Pena was indicted on June 21, 2011 with wire fraud by paying a bribe to Limas in exchange for Limas allowing him to report by mail and not revoking his state probation. Pena was serving state probation for a 2005 robbery charge.
At the time of his plea, Pena admitted paying $1,800 to Jose Manuel “Meme” Longoria to bribe Limas in exchange for an order allowing Pena to report to his probation officer by mail and no revocation of the probation. Pena had been on state probation for robbery since 2006 and had left Texas without authorization. When state probation officers sought to revoke Pena’s probation for the violation, Pena and his wife, Karina, contacted Longoria for assistance. Pena aided and abetted in the violation by agreeing to send money to Longoria to pay Limas. On April 23, 2008, Limas called the probation officer and stated he was ordering Pena be allowed to report by mail from Arkansas. Thereafter, Pena electronically wired $1,800 from Hot Springs, Arkansas to Longoria’s sister-in-law in Harlingen, Texas on April 25, 2008.
FBI agents had, through a court order, intercepted a series of calls between Pena, his wife, Longoria, and Limas discussing the scheme. In one call, Longoria informed Karina Pena that Limas was charging $1,500 but he (Longoria) wanted something for himself so he asked for $1,800. Allowing Pena to report by mail then permitted Pena to remain without arrest and continued on probation. Longoria later admitted to FBI agents he handed the money to Limas for that judicial order and Limas also admitted to receiving some money from Longoria to issue the order for reporting by mail for Pena.
Limas and Longoria have each entered guilty pleas to related violations as a result of the FBI’s investigation into public corruption. Limas and Longoria are scheduled for sentencing on March 13, 2012. To date, a total of eight defendants have entered guilty pleas in the FBI’s four-year public corruption investigation, including Jose Santiago “Jim” Solis, a former state representative and local attorney; Jose “Joe” Valle, a local attorney; Jaime Munivez, former District Attorney’s Office investigator; and Armando Pena and his wife Karina.
Pena will also serve a three-year term of imprisonment following his release. He was ordered to remain in federal custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Wynne and Oscar Ponce prosecuted this case.