Former Texas Representative “Jim” Solis Gets 47 Months In Prison For Limas Extortion Scheme
BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Former Texas representative Jose Santiago “Jim” Solis has been ordered to prison following his conviction of aiding and abetting the extortion by former state district judge Abel Corral Limas, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Solis pleaded guilty April 29, 2011.
Today, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, who accepted the guilty plea, handed Solis a total sentence of 47 months in federal prison. At the hearing, additional testimony was presented including the impact suffered by victims as well as Solis’ family and friends. Judge Hanen took into consideration the testimony of witnesses before pronouncing the sentence and stated Solis “betrayed the public trust and violated the oath to uphold the laws.” Solis was further ordered to pay restitution of approximately $119,000 and will serve a term of three years of supervised release following completion of the prison sentence. An additional amount of $250,000 was ordered forfeited as proceeds derived from the offense.
Solis, 47, a life-long resident of Harlingen, has practiced law in south Texas for many years, focusing primarily in personal injury cases. Solis served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives, representing District 38, for seven terms - retiring from the Legislature in 2007.
At the time of his guilty plea, Solis admitted his part in former Judge Limas’ use of the office of judge of the 404th District Court as a criminal enterprise to enrich himself and others, including Solis, through extortion. Limas accepted money and other consideration from attorneys in civil cases pending in his court, including Solis, in return for favorable pre-trial rulings in certain cases, including a case involving a helicopter crash at South Padre Island in February 2008. Solis specifically admitted to paying Limas $8,000 in May 2008, a payment they described as eight “golf balls,” for favorable rulings.
Evidence also showed Solis participated in a series of meetings with attorney Marc Garrett Rosenthal and Limas in the summer of 2008 during which they planned and negotiated the terms of Limas’ employment as an “of counsel” attorney with the firm. During those meetings, Rosenthal promised Limas an advance of at least $100,000 as well as a percentage of attorneys’ fees earned in the helicopter crash case. Limas’ employment arrangements were confirmed in calls on Aug. 28, 2008, between Limas and his wife and son. The intercepted calls indicated Limas was expecting to be “cut in” on 10% of the settlement/judgment of the helicopter crash case pending in his court and the $100,000 advance. On Dec. 31, 2008, Limas received a check for $50,000 payable from the Rosenthal & Watson Law Firm. On Jan. 2, 2009, Limas received a check for $50,000 from Solis.
In October 2009, the helicopter case settled for approximately $14 million and Limas received approximately $85,000 from the Rosenthal & Watson Law Firm approximately two months later.
To date, a total of eight defendants have entered guilty pleas to related violations in the FBI’s four-year public corruption investigation, including Limas, former state district judge of the 404th District Court; local attorney Jose “Joe” Valle; former Cameron County District Attorney’s Office investigator Jaime Munivez; Jose Manuel “Meme” Longoria; Armando Pena and his wife, Karina. Three others - attorneys Ray Roman Marchan, Marc Garrett Rosenthal and former Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos were found guilty of public corruption-related charges involving their association with Limas after separate jury trials. Marchan was previously sentenced to 42 months imprisonment which was vacated upon his death. Rosenthal and Villalobos will be sentenced Sept. 23 and Oct. 15, 2013, respectively.
Solis was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The investigation has been conducted by the FBI with the assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Brownsville Police Department. Southern District of Texas Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSA) Michael Wynne and Oscar Ponce are prosecuting this case. The cases against Villalobos, Rosenthal and Lucio are being prosecuted under the direction of the Western District of Texas by AUSAs Wynne and Greg Surovic.