BROWNSVILLE–A Rio Grande Valley attorney who claimed he was loaning money to a former state district judge in Cameron County, was convicted of bribery in what was the first case in corruption scandal to go to a jury.
Ray Roman Marchan, 56, of Brownsville was found guilty Monday on seven counts in the FBI’s public corruption investigation of former 404th District Court Judge Abel Corral Limas.
The jury found Marchan, a local attorney, guilty of one count of violation of Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) as well as one count of RICO conspiracy, three counts of aiding and abetting extortion under color of official right and two counts of aiding and abetting honest services mail fraud.
Marchan was indicted June 22, 2011, following a three-year investigation of corruption by then sitting judge of the 404th Judicial District Court, Abel Corral Limas.
“The successful prosecution of this case is an example of our strong stand against corruption and dedication to ensure the integrity of our entrusted public officials,” said U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. “We respect the jury’s decision and feel the verdict is justified based on the evidence we presented in court.”
During the two-week trial, federal prosecutors presented evidence Marchan paid bribes to Judge Limas. The evidence proved he paid bribes or kickbacks to Judge Limas in return for favorable judicial rulings and an appointment as ad litem attorney. An ad litem is appointed to represent the interest of any minor or disabled person in a lawsuit.
Evidence proved Marchan received favorable rulings in two cases and showed Limas received cash payments totaling $6,200 from Marchan on two occasions .
On each occasion, evidence showed Marchan had contacted Limas and referenced the transaction. Bank records were also entered as evidence. Limas testified as to the transactions and that the money was in return for having appointed Marchan as the ad litem attorney.
He also testified to an earlier incident when he received money from Marchan but he could not recall the specific amount.
In a third incident, Limas received a $5,000 check on June 27, 2008. An FBI agent testified he observed Limas arrive at Marchan’s office and only spending approximately five minutes thre before leaving.
Prosecutors presented evidence proving Limas deposited the check shortly thereafter. Limas acknowledged though his testimony the payment was in return for having Limas deny a motion for sanctions filed against Marchan by opposing counsel in the Fink case.
Marchan was also convicted of the two mail fraud counts, which prosecutors proved mail use to carry out the bribe or kickback scheme.
An attorney representing Sun Valley Dusting testified regarding one of those charges – the motion for sanctions mailing – and to not knowing Marchan had been having improper communications with Limas on the motion. Federal law makes it a crime for anyone to use the mails in carrying out a scheme to defraud.
Jurors also heard testimony of Limas as well as an FBI special agent concerning the broader Limas investigation involving others already arrested and convicted of aiding and abetting Limas in the corruption as well as of others who also received judicial favors from Limas.
To date, a total of eight defendants, including former attorneys Jim Solis and Joe Valle, former Cameron County Investigator Jaime Munivez, Limas’ middleman Manuel Longoria, Armando and Karina Pena and former bondsman Francisco Cisneros, have entered guilty pleas in relation to the Limas investigation.
Limas himself entered guilty pleas to RICO public corruption-related violations and is scheduled to be sentenced August 27.
U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen set sentencing for Marchan on September 24. He faces a maximum 20-year prison term and a possible $250,000 fine for each count of conviction. Marchan was allowed to remain on bond pending that sentencing hearing.