Judge Limas Associate Pleads Guilty
|Nov. 21, 2011|
BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Another defendant has entered a guilty plea in the FBI’s public corruption investigation of former 404th District Court Judge Abel Corral Limas, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Jose Manuel “Meme” Longoria, 52, a resident alien from Mexico residing in San Benito, Texas, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen to four counts as alleged in an indictment returned April 26, 2011 - one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce under color of official right or extortion, two counts of extortion and one count of aiding and abetting honest services wire fraud by Limas.
At today’s hearing, Longoria admitted to his role in a conspiracy involving the creation of a fraudulent drug money seizure document as well as a charging warrant both prepared by former Cameron County District Attorney (DA) investigator Jaime Munivez, obtaining information on a murder case in return for a bicycle provided to Munivez, and an attempted recovery of $800,000 in drug proceeds from a truck near Rosenberg, Texas. The recitation of evidence to the court indicated that as part of the public corruption investigation on Judge Limas, agents learned Longoria was also involved in criminal activity with others.
In the first incident which was charged as part of the conspiracy by Longoria, agents conducted an undercover operation in which Munivez ultimately met with Longoria and provided a document titled “Article 59.03 Statement of Seized Property” indicating $200,000 was seized on “11/20/07" by an investigator with the DA’s office. The document was provided in return for payment of money. In early 2008, Longoria assisted a drug trafficking organization in an attempt to recover a Georgia truck containing drug proceeds that was reported to be missing on the outskirts of Houston. Longoria enlisted the help of Munivez and “Person G,” to locate the truck with the possibility of receiving up to $90,000 for recovering it. In a recorded conversation, Person G informed Longoria to “be careful because maybe they’ll pick you up when...the truck is picked up and ...they’re (law enforcement) seeing, watching and they (sic) arrest you.” Ultimately, the truck was found by the Rosenberg Police Department and a total $289,290 in drug proceeds was seized.
In a second incident charged as part of the conspiracy, Longoria, Munivez and another person conspired to extort money from a person whom they falsely told had a charge/arrest warrant outstanding. Longoria extorted the money while Munivez created the fraudulent warrant document to show to the individual. In return for the money, Longoria promised the warrant would “disappear.”
In addition, Longoria arranged for Munivez to meet a fugitive in Matamoros, Mexico, and provide information on his pending murder case. Longoria then arranged for a bicycle to be given to Munivez in return for meeting with the fugitive. Agents conducting surveillance observed Longoria and Munivez arrive at and enter Bicycle World in Brownsville. On Jan. 23. 2008, Munivez picked up the bicycle which had been paid for by the fugitive.
Finally, in relation to count five of the indictment, Longoria also admitted today to his role in arranging a $1,500 payment to Limas in April 2008. The indictment charged that Longoria aided and abetted former judge Limas to devise “a scheme and artifice to defraud and deprive the state of Texas of the right to the honest services of a state district judge, performed free from deceit, favoritism, bias, self-enrichment and self-dealing.” Evidence presented today showed Longoria, acting as a middleman for Armando and Karina Pena, arranging for Limas to issue a court order allowing Armando Pena 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.
According to 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 from Arkansas. Two days later, according to court documents, Karina Pena was told that Limas wanted $1500. Longoria sought $300 for himself for arranging the deal. 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.
Both Armando and Karina Pena have previously entered a guilty plea to the wire fraud violation and are scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 30, 2011. To date, a total of seven defendants have entered guilty pleas in relation to the Limas investigation.
Sentencing is set before Judge Hanen on Feb. 27, 2012. At that time, Longoria faces a maximum 20-year prison term, a fine of up to $250,000 and five years of supervised release for each count of conviction. Following his guilty plea today, Longoria was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service where he will remain pending his sentencing hearing.
Munivez, who was charged in a separate indictment, is scheduled for jury selection on Dec. 3, 2011, before Judge Hanen. He is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.
The charges in relation to this case are the result of an ongoing three-year 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 case.