Courtroom for Sale Judge Gets Jail Time in Racketeering Case

Judge’s gavel over cash

Courtroom for Sale
Judge Gets Jail Time in Racketeering Case

09/19/13

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.

 

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.”

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2 thoughts on “Courtroom for Sale Judge Gets Jail Time in Racketeering Case

  1. SFA Reporter says:

    The Petition

    PETITION TO THE VIRGINIA LEGISLATURE FOR THE REMOVAL OF 17TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT JUDGE ESTHER LYLES WIGGINS

    The hereby undersigned demand that Judge Esther L. Wiggins be removed from her position as district court judge of the 17th Judicial District in the state of Virginia. Judge Wiggins has proven inside and outside the courtroom to not have judiciary character and has not upheld the canons of judicial conduct.

    We respectfully direct our grievances to the Virginia Legislature—the only organism in power to carry out such procedure and wish to let it be known that Judge Esther L. Wiggins:

    A. Violates Canon 3 of Virginia judiciary conduct by allowing bias and prejudice to influence her decisions in the courtroom.
    B. Carries out proceedings and reaches verdicts without admitting important evidence that may influence the case.
    C. Does not uphold the well being of the family as a priority and abuses her power by stripping parents from seeing their children causing great grievance and suffering.
    D. Is not competent in her functions. The judge does not operate in an impartial manner to the detriment of children and families who suffer the consequences of her actions.

    This petition is presented by several parents who have lost custody of their children due to Judge Esther L. Wiggins’ ineptitude and lack of judicial character. It is also important to note that this is not an isolated case, but rather a pattern of consistent bias and abuse of power as is clearly demonstrated by the cases of:

    • Benita Washington, (mother of Moses) Moses was taken from his family after suffering an asthma attack. Esther Wiggins refused to consider awarding temporary custody to Ms. Washington’s family. The child was promptly given up for adoption.
    • Hey, Nancy and husband Slitor, Kit (parents of Sabrina) Sabrina was given away to a politically connected couple in Arlington Virginia. The removal was based on a disability Nancy Hey suffers from; a very mild and functional level of autism. In the judicial opinion, Esther Wiggins focused on trivial reasons for giving away Mrs. Hey’s daughter. The community is concerned that any parent suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome or any other disorder can easily lose custody of their child.
    • Dr King, Ariel (mother of Arianna Lelani) Arianna’s case has been taken by the United Nations Human Rights Council and the German Embassy. This child contracted a rare blood disorder and shows signs of sexual abuse. Judge Esther Wiggins insisted on taking jurisdiction over the child even though the child lived in Virginia less than one month.
    • Naomi L. P. (mother of C) After Esther Wiggins awarded sole custody to the father, Eric Krempp who then sent C. to France and abandoned the child for nearly six years with his mother. The last time Naomi saw her daughter, the child was unable to speak English. The mother was forced to pay thousands of dollars in child support to a man who did not have custody of his child. Virginia child support enforcement neglected to send all that money to the French government to reimburse them for all their expenses for the child.

    Other women affected by Esther Wiggins are: Robinson, Carla; Byrd, Tylane and several other parents who wish to be represented on this petition, but remain anonymous out of fear of reprisal. Parents have expressed many concerns that Judge Wiggins does not notify all parties that there is not a court reporter present. Parents discover this court does not have court reporters until after the fact, thus failing to maintain any record of what takes place in the courtroom.

    Any time a Court conducts its proceedings in secret, without the constant surveillance of a court reporter, the community naturally looks upon the Court with an eye of suspicion. The undersigned petitioners feel that all proceedings should be recorded at all times. Secret trials and hearings do not belong in modern, civilized society.

    Parents claim that Judge Wiggins ignores important evidence, lies, and has inappropriate ex parte communication with parents and attorneys. Parents have reported that attorneys will visit Judge Wiggins privately in her chambers, and ask her for favors. This is evident in the overly friendly relationship she displays with attorneys in her courtroom. Esther Wiggins has also been accused of meeting parents outside the court room. In 2000, Eric Krempp claimed that Esther Wiggins was socializing with him at his restaurant, Les Halles, in Washington DC. Parents also report Esther Wiggins has had court orders written before attorneys even finished their closing arguments. Her rulings harm Virginia’s relationship with foreign governments. The country of Germany is deeply concerned about the welfare of Arianna Lelani while France is less than pleased that they paid tens of thousands of Euros for Celine while the biological father collected a hefty child support check for a little girl who never lived with him. This undermines the integrity of The Hague Convention Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and Retention between the United States and all ratifying countries.

    In conclusion, the hereby undersigned request that the Virginia State Legislature do a great moral service to the State of Virginia, children and parents by removing and not reappointing Judge Esther Lyles Wiggins. To date, Judge Esther L. Wiggins has diminished public confidence in the judiciary system and undermined the integrity of the entire system of government. No Virginia judge is above the law or the codes of ethical conduct laid out clearly the Virginia State Canons of Judicial Conduct. The people of Virginia deserve to have honest, responsible and impartial judges in their courtrooms for the benefit of fairness, equality and to preserve the rule of law.

    http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/removeestherwiggins/

    Sincerely,

    The undersigned

  2. SFA Reporter says:

    FCAA Fighting State Court-Based Racketeering Announces Advances in Illinois, Georgia, PA and Utah
    Bookmark and Share

    August 31, 2011 (MMD Newswire) — On June 19, 2006, the Chicago-based grassroots, non-profit organization, Illinois Family Court Accountability Advocates (IFCAA) issued its first press release on BusinessWire announcing that, despite the obstacle of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan representing the judges engaged in alleged racketeering enterprises, they had taken on apparent judicial corruption in the Cook County Circuit Court family court, called “the model for the nation” by Chief Judge Timothy Evans. Today IFCAA announces several major advances by grassroots efforts and the federal government nationally:

    An April 2, 2008 Illinois appellate court opinion which, based on her one hour of testimony under oath, stated, “Dr. Sheila Mannix of the IFCAA assisted Lynch in bringing charges and filing complaints against the corrupt judges. Although Mannix did not provide Lynch with any information regarding Judge White, she produced direct evidence regarding several other judges’ involvement in the bribery scheme.” [382 Ill. App. 3d 960]

    An April 10, 2010 certified report produced by the Illinois Family Law Study Committee [formed under the authority of House Resolution (HR1101) on May 19, 2008] was obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request which report stated: “(T)he effect of the present system, in practice, has created cottage industries of GALs/child representatives, custody evaluators and others…”

    Mannix attached the report to a grand jury motion in her case against the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (U.S.D.C. Case No. 10 C 3849). On September 14, 2010, Chief Judge William Holderman of the federal court in Chicago deferred alleged “direct evidence of federal funding fraud underlying the ‘cottage industries’ operating in the State of Illinois’ family court system” to District U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, stating in a written order, “The United States Attorney may exercise the full prosecutorial authority of the Executive Branch of the United States Government in bringing the matter to the attention of the grand jury.”

    An October 28, 2010, Chicago Defender article, “Grand jury demands documents on Ill. Grants,” reported that the prior month, August 2010, Holderman had already convened a grand jury and Fitzgerald had issued upwards of 50 subpoenas to Illinois agencies in receipt of public funds in an “official criminal investigation.”

    A July 30, 2011 press release on Illinois’ Republican U.S Senator Mark Kirk’s official website states, “WASHINGTON – Just weeks after the conviction of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill which included Senator Mark Kirk’s (R-Ill.) “honest services” priority with bipartisan support. The Public Corruption Prosecution Improvements Act, of which Sen. Kirk is a cosponsor, increases penalties for various public corruption crimes and provides additional tools for prosecutors to further crack down on public corruption.”

    An encouraging August 21, 2011, AP release out of Georgia, “FBI squad to investigate corruption among judges, legislators” reported, “The FBI has assembled a new squad to investigate corruption among judges and legislators in Georgia, though the top federal agent in the state is being tightlipped about what cases are developing.” “Brian Lamkin, who heads the FBI office in Georgia,” stated “”We don’t take this lightly,” he said.”These are truly the types of investigations that are being done in the back room. And the circle of friends is very small. In order to penetrate that inner circle, you’ve got to have a strong and tenacious group to develop the intelligence.””

    And the August, 11, 2011, 28-year sentence against Pennsylvania Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. in the successful “Kids-for-Cash” investigation by three federal agencies (FBI, IRS, and District U.S. Attorney’s Office) could signal a harbinger of more good things to come in line with the words of Chicago’s top prosecutor, Fitzgerald, after his second successful conviction of an Illinois governor within five years for “white collar crimes;” that he hopes “the message is heard this time” that the federal government will not tolerate public corruption.

    Similarly, Utah citizens, who have alerted their state and federal authorities for over eight years to evidence of alleged criminal acts and due process violations in cases involving alleged “judicial kidnapping and child trafficking” as exemplified in the August 19, 2011 NBC Dateline report of the “adoption” of “Baby Emma” from her father involving the Utah and Virginia courts, are encouraged by the nomination of David Barlow for their District U.S. Attorney in hopes that he is appointed and, along with their new FBI Special Agent in Charge David Johnson, will follow the lead of Chicago’s Fitzgerald and FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Grant.

    David Barlow, is the general counsel to U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) who, in June 2011, received a binder of direct evidence of alleged federal crimes hand delivered to his district office by Utah child advocate, Connie Fielding. Ms. Fielding also hand delivered the binder of evidence to the district office of Senate Judiciary Committee senior member, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), on November 30, 2010 upon the direct request of his aide (a former agent of the Secret Service according to Hatch) with whom Mannix met in D.C. on November 16, 2010.

    Dr. Mannix comments, “After working these past six years to help stop the apparent State-court based crimes which literally exploit the nation’s children as “commodities” in judicial system “profit centers,” I’ve found that an essential factor is differentiating between, on the one hand, the behaviors of traumatized parents being forced to watch their children irreparably harmed while being retaliated against, defamed, and impoverished and, on the other hand, the irrefutable sociopathic behaviors observed in public officials who have fiduciary obligations to stop that which they are participating in and enabling. I believe Mr. Fitzgerald summed it up best on June 27, 2011 after the solid conviction of ex-governor Blagojevich on 17 counts of federal crimes; he said, “There is legitimate politics. There are gray areas. Selling a Senate seat, shaking down a children’s hospital and squeezing a person to give money before you sign a bill that benefits them is not a gray area. It’s a crime.” Likewise, the evidence indicates that what is going on in the venue provided by the nation’s State courts in which private assets and federal funds can be unlawfully accessed are not “legitimate judicial proceedings” but crime, specifically, apparent violations of Federal funding laws and other Federal civil and criminal laws including alleged racketeering activity among public officials and State court actors.”

    In addition to helping provide evidence to state and federal authorities in pursuit of indictments of allegedly corrupt public officials including Mormon judges, Mannix has networked with Virginia citizens as well as Utah citizens, the latter of which have specifically called upon their Mormon GOP state legislators to launch an independent forensic audit of all Federal taxpayers’ dollars coming into the State’s family court-related programs.

    Dr. Mannix concludes, “No one will be able to balance any government budget until the public corruption involving hundreds of billions of the nation’s taxpayers’ hard-earned income, which, in part, is literally being using to perpetrate that which the U.S. Congress voted it is to prevent, specifically, child and elder abuse, domestic violence, parental deprivation, and child support avoidance, is stopped once and for all by more criminal investigations, forensic audits, and tough new laws which result in the loss of pensions in entirety and deterrent-based, long-term prison sentences for involved officials acting in positions of public trust. Onward for the children.”

    About IFCAA:

    Illinois Family Court Accountability Advocates (IFCAA) is a volunteer, non-profit organization which was co-founded in June 2005 by licensed mental health practitioners, educators, and victims of the alleged fraudulently-concealed racketeering activity in the Cook County family court involving domestic violence cases. IFCAA is operating under said assumed name for the non-profit organization, In All Our Best Interest, which Dr. Sheila Mannix founded in 1995 when she was engaged in her pre-family court racket professional activities and whose mission is to stop child abuse and other social dysfunction through education, activism, and advocacy.

    Media Contact:
    Dr. Sheila Mannix, Co-Founder
    Illinois Family Court Accountability Advocates (IFCAA)
    sheilamannix@yahoo.com
    (847) 971-6679

    http://www.mmdnewswire.com/ifcaa-announces-ongoing-alleged-retaliation-against-citizens-fighting-judicial-corruption-1237.html

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