Limas Corruption Case Lands Another in Prison
|Feb. 14, 2012|
BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Francisco “Pancho” Cisneros, a local bail bondsman 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 federal prison, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today.
Cisneros, 47, of Brownsville, Texas, entered a guilty plea in August 2011 to aiding and abetting extortion. Today, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen sentenced him to 16 months in federal prison.
The charge against Cisneros arose from investigation by the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Brownsville Police Department into former Judge Abel 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. Cisneros was charged by an indictment returned on June 21, 2011, with aiding and abetting Limas’ extortion by paying a bribe to Limas in exchange for official action pursuant to the Hobbs Act.
At the time of his plea, Cisneros admitted paying $2,000 to Jose Manuel “Meme” Longoria tobribe Limas in exchange for an order changing the terms of a previously set $25,000 cash/surety bond to a “personal recognizance bond” for Rodolfo Gracia, a defendant in a criminal drug case pending in Limas’ court. Cisneros aided and abetted in the violation by agreeing with Longoria to have the money paid to Limas. After receiving the money from Gracia’s family members on Jan. 31, 2008, Cisneros paid the money to Longoria at the parking lot of a day-care center owned by Limas. FBI agents observed as Limas arrived within minutes to then meet with Longoria in the parking lot. While agents watched, Limas placed a call to his court and ordered the cash/surety bond be changed to “personal recognizance.” Setting such a bond would then have allowed the release of Gracia. Longoria later admitted to FBI agents he handed the money over to Limas for that judicial order and Limas admitted to receiving at least $700 from Longoria to issue the order for a personal recognizance bond for Gracia.
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. Included in those are 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; along with Armando Pena and his wife, Karina.
In addition to the federal sentence, Judge Hanen further ordered Cisneros to pay a $2,500 fine and serve a three-year-term of supervised release upon completing his prison term. Cisneros, who had been released on bond, was ordered into federal custody and will remain in custody to serve his sentence.
Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Wynne and Oscar Ponce prosecuted this case.