In Texas, corruption is classed as a type of racketeering. This comes under the RICO – Racketeer-Influence and Corrupt Organization – Act. Corruption means that a business or act is run illegally as part of organized crime. In other words, criminal organizations like the mafia are not able to profit from a legitimate business (which counts as extortion) or to run a legitimate business of their own. The goal of the RICO Act is to make sure that criminal organizations no longer have an income flow, as this is what they use in order to fund their various other illegal activities. The same rules stand for public corruption, in which a government official abuses their position of power for financial gain.
A number of different criminal acts come under the RICO Act. The most common offenses include violation of state statutes, bribery, theft, embezzlement, fraud, bankruptcy, drug trafficking, criminal copyright infringement, money laundering, acts of terrorism and bringing in illegal aliens for financial gain. This list demonstrates the breadth of corruption and how much it can span.
Texas Laws and Penalties
The penalties for corruption are harsh and vary depending on the nature of the crime itself. However, in most cases, a custodial sentence will be handed down, followed by parole and/or supervised probation. There are usually also very substantial fines, restitution if any money was taken and a community service.
Texas Corruption Penalties
The penalties under the RICO Act are very harsh. If any organized criminal activity takes place, then the offense is immediately a charge above that of the seriousness of the actual offense. For instance, if the act itself is a Class A misdemeanor, the penalty would be a state jail felony. The exception is with first degree felonies, as this is the highest type of felony that exists.
Texas Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations under the RICO Act is incredibly complicated. When the Act was first brought in, there was no statute of limitations at all, as the severity of the crime is raised one level due to the corrupt nature. However, following a number of cases, it was agreed that the statute of limitation has been put at four years, but this can be accrued and tolled. Generally, the statute is tolled when the accused is in prison or out of state, but because of the nature of corruption charges, other reasons can be brought forward for tolling as well.
Key Texas Corruption Cases
Tom DeLay convicted of money laundering in Texas – DeLay has been convicted of funneling $190,000 to fellow Republicans through corporate donations. This means he violated the rules that state companies are not allowed to contribute to the campaign of a politician. His conviction was on money laundering, for which he could receive 99 years in prison. Additionally, he was charged on conspiracy to launder money, which could lead to 20 years in prison. DeLay continues to maintain his innocence. Interestingly, this is not the first time DeLay has been the subject of such charges and investigations.
Judge, DA and lawyer accused in Texas corruption case – In 2005, Hermila Hernandez was shot and killed by Amit Livingston. Following a plea deal, he was sent down for 23 years. However, he suddenly vanished after Abel Limas, the judge presiding over his case, allowed him 60 days to get his affairs in order. Judge Limas, DA Armando Villalobos and Hernandez’s lawyer have been accused of taking money to allow the escape to happen. Limas has pleaded guilty on these charges and is now helping prosecutors to build a case against the other two. Villalobos is accused of extortion, bribery and other corruption charges.
South Texas corruption scandals spur reflection – What started as a small case of corruption quickly escalated into a huge racketeering unit, smuggling huge amounts of drugs. The charges involved a huge amount of public officials, including former police officer and son of the local sheriff, who received a 17 year prison sentence for his involvement in the case.
Public corruption: courtroom for sale – One of the most shocking corruption cases in Texas involved the entire judicial system of the state. A former state judge received a six year sentences after it emerged that he took kickbacks and bribes to influence his rulings. Abel Limas, before becoming a state judge, was a police officer and also practiced law. During his eight years as a state judge, he used his courtroom as a way to line his own pockets and make huge financial profits.
In Texas, the extortion law charges people with theft. Extortion is the act of gaining money or property through threat of violence, force, harm to reputation, property damage or unfavorable government action. There is a difference between extortion and robbery, however, in as such that there is no immediate or imminent fear or danger of physical damage in the victim. This is because the conduct is a threat of something that could happen in the future and because the threat, although sometimes of a physical nature, usually involves damage to reputation rather than body. The issue of immediate danger is the key in this, which is why if a gun is used to threaten someone is empty, the crime becomes one of extortion, even if the victim was not aware of the empty casing.
Texas Laws and Penalties
A range of different penalties can be enforced following extortion and/or blackmail. The severity of the punishment depends on the value of the services, goods or cash that has been received from the defendant of the crime. The type of threats used in the crime also change the level of severity. The sentences usually are:
- Value of gain below $50 is a “Class C” misdemeanor. Sentence involves a fine only, of up to $500.
- Value of gain above $200,000 or more is a first degree felony. Sentence involves a prison sentence between five and 99 years and/or a fine up to $10,000.
Usually, all cases of extortion and blackmail also include some form of restitution, as well as probation after sentence. The levels of restitution and probation vary depending on the exact details and nature of the case. It is important to note, however, that prison charges for extortion and blackmail can be very significant. An average of 15 years is handed down for each individual attempt.
Texas Extortion/Blackmail Penalties
The main factors involved in sentences for extortion and blackmail charges are the amount involved, the way the threats were delivered and who the victim was. If the victim was elderly, young or disabled, or if it was a government official, the penalties are usually higher. The four factors that will be taken into consideration by a judge in these cases are the actual threat that was made, the intent of the perpetrator, the fear instilled in the victim and the type of property that was involved in the case.
Texas Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for the crime of extortion/blackmail in Texas is five years. This means that the state must bring the case to court and press charges within that time period. However, there are situations in which the statute maybe suspended or tolled. For instance, if the perpetrator is out of state or already imprisoned on another charge, the statute of limitation may not be applicable.
Key Texas Extortion/Blackmail Cases
Local Man Convicted In Attempted Extortion Case – Reginald Ricks was found guilty of extortion on several counts. The trial only lasted half a day and showed how Ricks had attempted to extort $4 million. The victim was the area educator. In an FBI sting, he accepted $400,000 to keep certain information quiet, but he was arrested when he went to pick up the money.
Cop pleads guilty in extortion case – Officer Curtis Wayne Lundy has been charged with extortion. He has admitted to taking $500 for keeping a drug charge quiet. This was a clear case of wire fraud and theft of honest services. This is a very clear example of how complicated penalties are in extortion/blackmail cases. Although the amount was reasonably low, the circumstances of the case and the fact that a policeman was involved would indicate higher sentencing. The case would usually involve 20 years imprisonment, but Lundy will receive a mixed sentence involving lengthy probation instead.
Former Texas resident charged with extortion for threatening to destroy client’s online reputation – William Laurence Stanley claimed to help company build up a better online reputation, but he then threatened businesses with using his skills to ruin their business unless they paid him money. Interestingly, Stanley and his wife, who is also being charged but has not been arrested yet, are Romanian residents and nationals. Stanley has been extradited to this country to face criminal charges. If convicted, both him and his wife could face up to 22 years in a federal prison. This case demonstrates how the internet is becoming a new tool for fraudulent activity, because companies rely so strongly on their online reputation.
In 2020, technology and the internet leaves a trail of articles and old news stories which are rather damning confirmation of legal fraud, extortion and corruption in Texas and in Washington. However, you can tell the by the number of articles which are permanently removed that the people are being monitored and which are perceived as ‘bad news’ for these unethical bodies are being permanently erased from the archives.
These news articles and publications are regarded by the government, the media outlets (which are controlled and censored), lawyers and high profile hustlers in government – they are watching what the public citizens are publishing and republishing. They wish to control the ‘factions’. The are taking away your civil liberties. #RESTORETX
Public Corruption: Courtroom for Sale
Judge Gets Jail Time in Racketeering Case
“This case and the sentencing today serves as a reminder that this behavior will not be tolerated in the Southern District of Texas. We will continue our efforts against public corruption and will pursue prosecution in these matters when identified to us by our partner law enforcement agencies.” – U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, S.D. Tex.
In a case that exposed widespread corruption in a South Texas county’s judicial system—reaching all the way to the district attorney’s office—a former state judge was recently sentenced to six years in prison for taking bribes and kickbacks in return for favorable rulings from his bench.
Abel Limas, 59, a lifelong resident of Brownsville, Texas, served as a police officer and practiced law before becoming a state judge in Cameron County in 2001. He served eight years on the bench, during which time he turned his courtroom into a criminal enterprise to line his own pockets.
“The depth of the corruption was shocking,” said Mark Gripka, a special agent in our San Antonio Division who was part of the team that investigated the case. “What was more shocking was how cheaply Judge Limas sold his courtroom—$300 here, $500 there—in return for a favorable ruling.”
There was plenty of big money involved as well. Limas received more than $250,000 in bribes and kickbacks while he was on the bench. He took money from attorneys with civil cases pending in his court in return for favorable pre-trial rulings, most notably in a case involving a Texas helicopter crash that was later settled for $14 million. Referring to an $8,000 payment Limas received in that case, our investigators listened on the telephone as he described the cash to an accomplice as eight golf balls. “Their code language didn’t fool anybody,” Gripka said.
Evidence also showed that Limas made a deal with the attorneys in the helicopter crash case to become an “of counsel” attorney with the firm. He was promised an advance of $100,000 and 10 percent of the settlement—all while the case was still pending in his court.
Accomplice: Hello…¿Qué pasó?
Abel Limas: They’re gonna…they’re gonna, they’re gonna give me the one hundred up front before Christmas.
Accomplice: And why is that?
Limas: Because they want to. Because they’re going to cut me in that helicopter death case for 10 percent.
Limas: And the death case that was [that was given to them] by Joe, they’re gonna cut me on that one too.
Accomplice: Oh! Oh, well, that’s good, babe.
Limas: [Expletive] you don’t know, you don’t…
Limas: …know how good that is…
Accomplish: That is fantastic. You can tell Carla she doesn’t have to, uh, she doesn’t have to give us the rent yet.
Limas: You know if…if they settle that, uh…
Limas: …they settle that heli—cause it’s two deaths, remember?
Accomplice: Yeah, yeah.
Limas: If they settle the helicopter case for six million…
Limas: …you know how much I’m making?
Accomplice: How much?
Limas: Just in attorney fees?
Accomplice: How much?
Limas: Like 250.
Accomplice: Oh, my God. No, that’s great. Just be sure to pay the IRS. Okay? ‘Cause you don’t want to have anything to do with them.
Limas: No, I’m gonna leave you all the money and I’m gonna go to prison for five years.
Accomplice: No—no—no—no—no—no—no. You’re not going to do that either.
Limas: Uh, let me stop here to see what Joe has.
Accomplice: All right. Okay, babe. Okay, okay.
Accomplice: Bueno, bye.
Over a 14-month period beginning in November 2007, investigators used court-authorized wiretaps to listen to the judge’s phone calls. “That’s when we really learned the scope of what he was doing,” Gripka explained.
The judge’s nearly $100,000 annual salary was not enough to support his lifestyle, which included regular gambling trips to Las Vegas.
In 2010, when Limas was faced with the overwhelming evidence against him, he began to cooperate in a wider public corruption investigation—and our agents learned that the Cameron County district attorney at the time, Armando Villalobos, was also corrupt. The investigation showed, among other criminal activities, that Villalobos accepted $80,000 in cash in exchange for taking actions that allowed a convicted murderer to be released for 60 days without bond prior to reporting to prison. The murderer failed to report to prison and remains a fugitive.
Limas pled guilty to racketeering in 2011. By that time, he had helped authorities uncover wide-ranging corruption in the Cameron County judicial system.
To date, 10 other defendants have been convicted by a jury or pled guilty as part of the FBI’s six-year investigation, including a former Texas state representative, three attorneys, a former investigator for the district attorney’s office, and Villalobos, who is scheduled to be sentenced next month on racketeering, extortion, and bribery charges.
“During the course of this investigation, we interviewed over 800 people, including many local attorneys in Cameron County,” Gripka said. “We hope this case shows everyone that the government will not tolerate officials who violate the public trust. Fighting public corruption is a priority for the FBI,” he added, “and it is something we take very seriously.”