News and Press Releases

Probationer Allowed by Judge Limas to Report by Mail After Bribe Paid, Pleads Guilty

July 26, 2011

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – The probationer who left the state without authorization but was permitted to report by mail after a bribe was paid to former State District Judge Abel Limas has been convicted of aiding and abetting honest services wire fraud, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

Armando Pena, 30, of Corpus Christi, Texas, pleaded guilty today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald G. Morgan to a one-count criminal indictment charging him with aiding and abetting honest services wire fraud by former state judge Abel Corral Limas, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1343, 1346, and 2. At today’s hearing, Pena admitted to his role in arranging a $1,500 payment to Limas in April 2008, allegedly through middleman Jose Manuel “Meme” Longoria, in exchange for Limas’s order allowing him to report to the state probation by mail rather than in person. Pena, who had left Texas without authorization to reside in Arkansas, was subject to arrest and revocation of his deferred adjudication probationary term for violating a condition of his eight-year probationary term imposed for aggravated robbery in March 2006.

Per the pleadings filed in court today, Karina Pena, Armando’s wife, contacted Longoria on April 22, 2008, seeking his assistance to arrange for her husband to be permitted to report by mail. Two days later, according to court documents, Karina Pena was told that Limas wanted $1500, Longoria sought $300 for himself for arranging the deal and Limas had already been paid $1,000. On April 24, 2008, Armando Pena finalized the arrangements with Longoria and wire transferred $1800 to Harlingen, Texas.

FBI agents later reviewed the Armando Pena state court case file and located a progress report written by Pena’s probation officer indicating that, “On April 23, 2008, the Honorable Court (Limas) contacted our office in reference to allowing the defendant to report by mail.” Furthermore, on May 13, 2008, Judge Limas signed an order allowing Pena to report by mail.  

Pena 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. Sentencing is set before U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen on Oct. 31, 2011. Pena was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. Pena’s wife, Karina Pena, pleaded guilty to the same offense on Tuesday, July 19, 2011, and has been permitted to remain on bond pending sentencing.

The charges against the Penas are the result of an ongoing investigation being conducted by the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Brownsville Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Wynne and Oscar Ponce are prosecuting the cases.

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