BROWNSVILLE–A woman who helped bribe a federal judge in Cameron County avoided a federal prison Thursday when a judge sentenced her in the case.
Karina Pena, wife of Armando Pena on probation, has been sentenced for her role in the scheme of former State District Judge Abel Corral Limas to solicit and accept bribes in exchange for official action, federal prosecutors said.
Pena, 29, of Brownsville entered a guilty plea in July to aiding and abetting honest services wire fraud.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen handed Pena a four-year term of probation and further ordered she complete 200 hours of community service.
The charge against Pena arose from an investigation into former State District Judge Abel Corral 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.
Pena was indicted in June of last year for wire fraud after paying a bribe to Limas in exchange for Limas allowing her husband, Armando, to report by mail and not revoking his state probation. Pena was serving on state probation for a 2005 robbery charge.
At the time of her plea, Karina Pena admitted paying $1,800 to Jose Manuel “Meme” Longoria to bribe Limas in exchange for an order allowing her husband to report to his probation officer by mail and no revocation of the probation.
Armando had been on state probation for Robbery since 2006 and had left Texas without authorization. When state probation officers sought to revoke Armando Pena’s probation for the violation, Karina and her husband contacted Longoria for assistance.
Karina Pena aided and abetted in the violation by making arrangements to have her husband, Armando, send money to Longoria to pay Limas. On April 23, 2008, Limas called the probation officer and stated he was permitting Armando Pena to report by mail from Arkansas.
Thereafter, Armando electronically wired $1,800 from Hot Springs, Ark., to Longoria’s sister-in-law in Harlingen on April 25, 2008.
FBI agents had, through a court order, intercepted a series of calls between Pena, her husband, Longoria and Limas discussing the scheme. In one call, Longoria informed Karina Pena that Limas was charging $1,500 but he (Longoria) wanted something for himself so he asked for $1,800.
Allowing Armando to report by mail then permitted him to remain without arrest and continued on probation. Longoria later admitted to FBI agents he handed the money to Limas for that judicial order and Limas also admitted to receiving some money from Longoria to issue the order for reporting by mail for Armando.
Limas, Longoria and Armando Pena 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 Aug. 7 and May 14, respectively. Armando Pena was sentenced in March 2012 to a 27-month prison term.
To date, a total of eight defendants have entered guilty pleas in the FBI’s four-year public corruption investigation, including 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 and Karina Pena.