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Former South Texas District Attorney gets prison sentence for corruption

Corruption in South Texas
Corruption in South Texas
Graphic by Jack Dennis

Years of corruption led to the sentencing of 13 years in federal prison today for the past Cameron County District Attorney in South Texas.

Armando R. Villalobos was sentenced before U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville for his role in various bribery and extortion schemes announced United States Attorney Robert Pitman.

Villalobos will also pay $339,000 in restitution, pay a $30,000 fine, and will be under supervised release for three years after he gets out of prison.

“The most important component of an effective justice system is the public’s ability to trust those who are responsible for enforcing the law,” said Pitman. “But even when there is a breach of that trust, as in this case, the public should take some comfort in knowing that there is a mechanism for detecting, rooting out, and punishing those who would corrupt the process.”

A federal jury convicted Villalobos last May for violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, and five counts of extortion.

“Jurors acquitted Villalobos of two counts of extortion,” Pitman announced yesterday. “This afternoon, Judge Hanen granted the defendant’s motion for acquittal on an extortion count (count three) before sentencing Villalobos to 156 months’ incarceration on each of the six remaining charges all to run concurrent.”

For almost six years between October 2, 2006 through May 3, 2012, evidence showed Villalobos conspired with others “to illegally generate income for themselves and others through a pattern of bribery and extortion, favoritism, improper influence, personal self-enrichment, self-dealing, concealment, and conflict of interest,” Pitman stated.

“Jurors found that Villalobos solicited and accepted more than $100,000 in bribes and kickbacks in the form of cash and campaign contributions in return for favorable acts of prosecutorial discretion, including minimizing charging decisions, pretrial diversion agreements, agreements on probationary matters, and case dismissals.”

According to Pitman, Villalobos “arranged for private counsel to handle civil and forfeiture matters associated with criminal matters pending in the Office of the District and County Attorney of Cameron County.”

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