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Aug. 10, 2011

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Local Attorney Pleads Guilty to Helping former Judge Abel Limas Misuse and Abuse his Court For Personal Gain

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A local attorney has admitted to aiding and abetting former State District Court Judge Abel Limas’ unlawful use of his court for his and Limas’ benefit, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

Jose Martin “Joe” Valle, 54, of Harlingen, Texas, pleaded guilty this afternoon to a one-count criminal information charging him with aiding and abetting extortion by former state judge Abel Corral Limas, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1951 and 2 (The “Hobbs Act”). The criminal information was filed early this morning, Aug. 10, 2011, in Brownsville, Texas, and Valle pleaded guilty to the charge this afternoon before United States District Court Judge Andrew Hanen.

Valle, a licensed Texas attorney, has practiced law in South Texas for many years. While his focus has been largely on criminal cases, he also has been handling civil personal injury cases. Today, Valle admitted that he aided and abetted former judge Limas to use the office of judge of the 404th District Court to enrich Limas and to retain an ad litem appointment in a case pending in Limas’ court by referring a wrongful death, civil case to the law firm to which Limas had committed himself to work upon leaving the bench currying additional favor for Limas with the firm. Valle received an advance payment of $25,000 for the referral, $3,000 of which he shared with Limas. 

Limas, who stands convicted and is pending sentencing, has previously admitted accepting money and other consideration from attorneys involved in civil cases pending in his court in return for favorable pre-trial rulings in various cases, including cases handled by the firm to which Limas committed himself to work upon leaving the bench.
Valle faces a maximum prison term of 20 years, a fine of up to $250,000 and a term of supervised release of up to three years at sentencing, which Judge Hanen has set for Nov. 14, 2011. Valle has been permitted to remain on bond pending that proceeding. The charges against Valle are the results of an investigation conducted by the FBI, DEA and the Brownsville Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Wynne and Oscar Ponce are prosecuting this and other cases filed as a result of this investigation including the case against former judge Limas.