If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
Former state District Judge Rudy Delgado allegedly accepted bribes and improper gifts from at least six attorneys — not just the attorney who confessed to paying him for courtroom favors.
Along with attorney Noe Perez, who confessed to providing Delgado with cash, at least five other attorneys allegedly bribed Delgado or gave him improper gifts, according to a sentencing memorandum filed Friday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.
The FBI started investigating Delgado in November 2016. Agents obtained a court order to monitor Delgado’s phone calls, tracked his location and installed a camera near Delgado’s house.
“During the investigation, the FBI collected evidence that suggested that the defendant engaged in a pattern of accepting bribes and improper gifts from attorneys other than Perez,” according to the sentencing memorandum. “However, the defendant’s obstruction of justice prevented the FBI from fully pursuing this evidence.”
Attorney Michael McCrum of San Antonio, who represents Delgado, said he couldn’t immediately comment on the sentencing memorandum Friday afternoon.
Delgado took the case against him to trial in July. A jury convicted him on eight charges, including bribery and obstruction of justice.
The sentencing memorandum revealed new details about the investigation, including that FBI agents obtained a court order to monitor Delgado’s phone calls.
“Although the government did not introduce any intercepted calls at trial, several interceptions provided potentially productive leads and evidence,” according to the sentencing memorandum. “However, due to the defendant’s obstruction of justice on January 29, 2018, several of those leads could not be fully pursued.”
Intercepted phone calls, along with GPS tracking data and video surveillance, allowed the FBI to monitor Delgado’s interactions with attorneys.
Delgado accepted “apparent bribes” from two attorneys, “alleged bribes” from a third attorney and “undisclosed improper gifts” from two other attorneys.
The sentencing memorandum doesn’t identify the five attorneys by name.
“Due to the fact that this sentencing memo and exhibits relate to uncharged individuals and conduct, the government has anonymized the names of individuals other than the defendant and Perez, and filed the exhibits under seal,” according to the sentencing memorandum.
A significant part of the sentencing memorandum details interactions between Attorney 1 and Delgado.
“The defendant maintains a close personal relationship with a McAllen-area attorney, Attorney 1,” according to the sentencing memorandum. “As is demonstrated below, evidence from eye witnesses and from intercepted phone calls show that the defendant has engaged in improper ex parte conversations with Attorney 1, agreed to do personal favors for Attorney 1 in his capacity as a judge, and suggest that the defendant has accepted bribes from Attorney 1.”
Delgado attended a birthday party for Attorney 1 in July 2015.
Along with Attorney 1 and Delgado, several prostitutes attended the birthday party, according to the sentencing memorandum. A person who attended the party said the prostitutes planned to leave early because one of them had a hearing in Delgado’s courtroom the next day.
To keep them at the party, Delgado called his court coordinator and rescheduled the prostitute’s hearing, according to the sentencing memorandum.
At some point after the party, the person witnessed Attorney 1 provide Delgado with $1,000 in cash. Based on conversations the person overheard, the person believed the payment was a bribe.
Prosecutors discussed a similar incident at trial.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Arthur “Rob” Jones wanted U.S. District Judge Alfred H. Bennett, who presided over the trial, to allow a woman named Mireya Hinojosa to testify.
Hinojosa said she attended attorney Al Alvarez’s birthday party in 2015. A few days later, she witnessed Alvarez pay $1,000 to Delgado.
Concerned about how, exactly, Hinojosa knew the money constituted a bribe and a lack of detail provided by prosecutors, Bennett blocked her from testifying.
Alvarez isn’t Attorney 1, said attorney Heriberto “Eddie” Medrano of Harlingen, who represents him.
FBI agents also intercepted phone calls between Delgado and Attorney 1 that suggested the judge wasn’t impartial during Attorney 1’s divorce.
“At the beginning of the call, Attorney 1 told the defendant that he had been loading hay, leading the defendant to ask whether Attorney 1 needed to purchase hay from the defendant,” according to the sentencing memorandum.
Perez, the attorney who confessed to paying Delgado for courtroom favors, had talked about buying firewood from the judge at inflated prices.
FBI agents thought the conversation about purchasing hay sounded similar to Perez’s conversations about buying firewood. They concluded that “purchasing hay” was just a cover for bribery.
Attorney 2, who is described in the sentencing memorandum as a “McAllen-area attorney,” also discussed buying hay from Delgado.
“Attorney 2 told the defendant that he would pay for the hay and pick it up later, which is consistent with Perez’s testimony that he would pay the defendant bribe money under the guise that he was buying firewood but never pick up the wood,” according to the sentencing memorandum.
Delgado also asked Attorney 2 for beer in June 2017.
“Bring me some Coronas,” Delgado said, according to the sentencing memorandum, which quotes a recorded phone call, “as that’ll bring out the Mexican.”
Surveillance video shows Attorney 2 buying a 12-pack of Corona beer from a convenience store. After the purchase, a black Ford F-150 arrived at Delgado’s house.
The FBI checked Texas Department of Motor Vehicles records, which showed Attorney 2 owned a black 2005 Ford F-150.
“When the FBI was finally able to interview Attorney 2, Attorney 2 falsely denied ever bringing beer to the defendant and denied ever having ex parte conversations with the defendant,” according to the sentencing memorandum.
Attorney 3, who is described in the sentencing memorandum as “a McAllen-area civil attorney,” allegedly bribed Delgado through an intermediary.
Prosecutors convicted the intermediary of drug trafficking. In exchange for testifying against Delgado, the intermediary wanted credit for cooperation.
The intermediary is identified in the sentencing memorandum as Person 4.
“Hidalgo County court records confirm that Attorney 3 had several cases before the defendant during the relevant time frame,” according to the sentencing memorandum. “When interviewed by the FBI, Attorney 3 admitted knowing the defendant and Person 4, and confirmed other details provided by Person 4, but denied paying bribes to the defendant.”
The story about Attorney 3 is similar to a story that surfaced during the trial.
Prosecutors wanted to call a drug trafficker named Fernando Guerra Sr. to testify against Delgado. The federal judge who presided over the trial didn’t allow Guerra to testify, concerned that he couldn’t recall key pieces of information, including when, exactly, the events took place.
Attorney 4 and Attorney 5 provided Delgado with improper gifts, including hunting trips, gourmet meals and a trip to Key West, Florida, according to the sentencing memorandum.
“The defendant also accepted improper gifts from attorneys appearing before him, and did not disclose any of them as required by state law,” according to the sentencing memorandum. “Attorney 4, a McAllen-area attorney who is also a close personal friend of the defendant, stated in interviews with the FBI that he and another attorney gave gifts to the defendant while they had high-dollar products liability cases pending before him. None of these gifts were disclosed on the defendant’s legally-required personal financial statements.”
Attorney 5, who is described in the sentencing memorandum as a “Texas attorney,” owned a ranch where Delgado hunted.
Attorney 4 and Attorney 5 took Delgado on hunting trips in 2012 and 2013, when they had cases pending before him.
In May 2014, one of the cases was settled. Delgado signed an order of dismissal on May 21, 2014.
“That same day, Attorney 4 purchased an airplane ticket for the defendant, himself, and another friend to fly to Miami, Florida the following week. The men then spent three days in Key West, Florida at a residence provided by Attorney 5,” according to the sentencing memorandum. “The expenses for the trip, which were over $4,000, were paid by Attorney 4, who was reimbursed by Attorney 5’s law firm. The defendant did not pay any of the expenses.”
Federal sentencing guidelines, which involve a complicated point system, suggest a 78- to 97-month sentence for Delgado, according to the memorandum. Prosecutors requested the maximum.
“Anything other than a substantial sentence will send the message to the public that judges receive preferential treatment,” according to the sentencing memorandum. “This Court must punish the defendant for his willful and pervasive criminal conduct and send a strong and unequivocal message to other public officials in McAllen and around the country that with great power comes great responsibility and abuse of the privileges of power will not be tolerated.”
Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 25.