Melo Ochoa, former judge who confessed to accepting bribes, dead at 74

Former Justice of the Peace Melo Ochoa — a judge who served western Hidalgo County for two decades before he pleaded guilty to bribery and resigned in disgrace — died on Friday. He was 74.

Melo Ochoa, who had been hospitalized with COVID-19, died at approximately 1 a.m. Friday, said his daughter, Velma Ochoa.

“He was always a hard worker and a straight shooter,” said former Peñitas Mayor Marcos Ochoa, a distant relative. “And that’s how I knew him. As far as I was concerned, with me, he was a good person.”

Jose Ismael “Melo” Ochoa was born in Peñitas, where his family owned a small store, on Oct. 4, 1946.

His mother had a reputation for helping the less fortunate.

“If you didn’t have the money to buy something, she would help you,” Marcos Ochoa said. “And him, same thing.”

Melo Ochoa married, started several small businesses and became involved in local politics.

After he served on the La Joya school board, Melo Ochoa became justice of the peace for Precinct 3 Place 2, which covers western Hidalgo County.

The job involved handling traffic tickets, signing arrest warrants and setting bonds. With support from western Hidalgo County politicians, Ochoa ran unopposed for years. He rarely made headlines and attracted little attention.

Starting in 2012, when a federal agent was shot in Hargill, a series of scandals exposed corruption throughout Hidalgo County — and revealed that Melo Ochoa had accepted bribes.

After the shooting, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested Julio Armando “Nandie” Davila, a federal informant who occasionally worked for attorneys and bondsmen; his ex-girlfriend, Aida Palacios, an investigator with the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office; and his brother, Arnoldo “No No” Davila.

Julio Davila claimed that he bribed Melo Ochoa to reduce bonds. Palacios and his brother, Arnoldo, corroborated key parts of his story.

“Davila advised he believed that he gave Judge Ochoa approximately $60,000.00 between 2009 and 2012,” according to a summary of the investigation released under the Texas Public Information Act. Along with cash, Davila provided Melo Ochoa with bottles of liquor, hunting boots and other gifts.

ICE, the Texas Rangers and federal prosecutors confronted Ochoa about the allegations in May 2014.

“Judge Ochoa advised that the amounts varied between $50.00 to $100.00 and admitted that, at times, the amounts were larger,” according to a summary of the interview. “He advised that Davila would go to the judge’s office to look at cases with high bonds then Davila would contact the defendant’s family.”

Melo Ochoa also confessed to accepting $1,500 from Davila “once or twice.”

On Oct. 10, 2014, about five months after the interview, Melo Ochoa resigned. A grand jury indicted him on bribery and money laundering charges less than three weeks later.

Melo Ochoa pleaded guilty.

A judge fined Melo Ochoa $10,000 and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. The prison sentence, however, was suspended. Ochoa spent about five years on community supervision instead.

The conviction marred years of service to western Hidalgo County.

“From my perspective, the legacy or the good deeds that people do are all washed away when somebody does something that is against the oath that they took in office,” said former Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra.

Judges who accept bribes destroy public trust in the judicial system, Guerra said, and call into question every decision they ever made.

“So his legacy, Judge Ochoa’s legacy, is tarnished because of the fact that he got in trouble,” Guerra said. “That’s unfortunate, but any time that elected officials make a serious mistake in the performance of their duties that is an intentional act that goes against their oath to the state and the United States, unfortunately, they get what they deserve.”

24 Comments

  1. Aurora Villarreal on January 22, 2021 at 7:42 pm

    Shame on you, Progress Times! Where is your decency and respect for his family that is in mourning.

  2. Claude Henry Smoot on January 23, 2021 at 6:20 am

    Why so much praise for a criminal?

    • Tommy on January 26, 2021 at 2:46 am

      Have you looked at yourself on the mirror lately? His family is mourning you ignorant ape. Haven’t you learned anything from what’s gling on with covid and you’re more concerned with his past? That’s why the RGV never progressses with ignorant people like you.

  3. Anna Cedillo on January 23, 2021 at 9:46 am

    Shame on you progress time no respect for the family. He was also a very generous man if you’re going to publish the bad why don’t you also publish the good he did while in office shame on you

  4. Ernesto Rodriguez on January 23, 2021 at 10:48 am

    descance en paz amigo

  5. Emma Flores on January 23, 2021 at 11:02 am

    Melo was a good man … decent, kind hearted, respectable, family man who helped many people… Why not include that in your write up? .. Shame on you Progress Times…

    • Sandra D on January 23, 2021 at 12:12 pm

      Because that wouldn’t help ratings, Emma. It’s unfortunate that no matter how much good one does, it’s the “bad” others choose to remembr us by. I’m certain he did a lot of good and it takes a certain kind of courage to accept a public office position. May he rest in peace.

  6. Daisy Zarate on January 23, 2021 at 12:33 pm

    How Dare you Dave Hendricks? Where is your human decency? This man was more than just his mistakes. I worked with this man for many years and there was a lot more to him than just his “wrong way of doing things” This is so disrespectful to the family and friends mourning the loss of a loved one. This article is not informative, it’s hurtful!!His wife is ill and I can’t imagine loosing her husband and then having to read all his wrong doings it isn’t going to improve her health in any way. This is old news, everyone one who knew and loved him knew what he had done. I thought you were a reporter? All you did was look up his past and smear his name when he could no longer defend himself. That’s a coward if you ask me. Shame on you and shame on the progresstimes for publishing such trash!

  7. Bertha Barrera Rodríguez on January 23, 2021 at 3:32 pm

    Where is the human element and respect for the deceased? “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye…when all the time there is a plank in your own eye” Matthew 7:3-4. Jesus himself spoke the words, “let the one without sin cast the first stone.” The ONLY one qualified to judge is Jesus Christ.

    • Claude Henry Smoot on January 25, 2021 at 6:03 am

      Lord loves a workin’ man.
      -Navin Johnson – 1:3:4

  8. Olivia Sullivan on January 23, 2021 at 3:51 pm

    “Y como insistieran en preguntarle, se enderezó y les dijo: El que de vosotros esté sin pecado sea el primero en arrojar la piedra contra ella.”
    ‭‭Juan‬ ‭8:7‬ ‭

  9. Sally Bazan on January 24, 2021 at 9:33 am

    So disrespectful and low class to be writing about the past. The family is mourning. And hurting at this time. And you all getting pleasure and writing this. The Ochoa family needs a apology. Melo may you R. I. P.

  10. Sally Bazan on January 24, 2021 at 9:36 am

    R. I. P. Melo.

  11. Claude Henry Smoot on January 25, 2021 at 4:54 am

    As long as you excuse those who betray the public trust and engage in corrruption, you will have corruption.

    • Tommy on January 26, 2021 at 2:35 am

      Nobody is excusing anyone you idiot. The past is in the past. Why mention it if it was a long time ago? Why not just mention that he passed away? No one is perfect besides the family is in mourning. Even with with everything that’s going on people still don’t learn to live and forget. That’s why covid is going on right now because of ignorant, selfish people like you.

    • Tommy on January 26, 2021 at 2:50 am

      You ignorant ape. Why bring up his past? The man just died from covid and his wife is sick. Have some decency. His family is mourning. No wonder the RGV never progresses with ignorant people like you.

  12. Ceci Garza on January 25, 2021 at 8:14 am

    Condolences to his family, we all will die one day. To many he serviced and many he hurt, Now he will answer to our Creator, RIP Melo Ochoa, your time to rest has come.

  13. Terry hernandez on January 25, 2021 at 7:50 pm

    He was s good man, we are human and sometimes we allow the bad to take over us. At the end we have to answer for ourselves. My parents sold him our property in penitas for alot less than what it was valued. But that is ok cause we received the blessings. The Murguia family. My mother still kept you In her prayers. I am so sorry for your loss.

  14. Tommy on January 26, 2021 at 2:42 am

    May he rest in peace. As for the reporter who wrote this…you are an ignorant reporter. Why bring up his past if the family is mourning? Are you plain stupid or what? Have you not learned your lesson from everything that has happened and is still happening with covid? Are you literally that ignorant? Have some decency and respect his family you belligerent ape.

  15. Janie Villarreal on January 26, 2021 at 5:37 am

    Melo was a good person my family is related to his family my parents always talk good about his mother she also help other people, and my parents . Condolences to the Ochoa family 🙏🙏 may You RIP Mr Melo Ochoa.

  16. Janie Cantu on January 27, 2021 at 9:51 am

    When I was small we were very poor, not because we had to be but because my dad was old fashion… woman stayed home only men worked. I remember Melos mom, and Melo come in his big station wagon full of everything almost included the kitchen sink. They had candy, pan dulce, clothing-of all types and sizes. My mom would stuff charge on her account. That how he and his mom help people. We love when Sunday came around. Maybe he made a mistake, and took a bribe but 3000, is nothing to what heard of other doing. Melo you were and always will be a great person, loving husband, dad, grandpa and brother to your siblings but most of all a great and kind friend Rest In Peace my friend

  17. Valley resident on January 27, 2021 at 4:10 pm

    This is the norm for the valley other politicians have done much worse and have gotten away with it. Hopefully they get the same slam piece since all you bottom feeders care about is generating controversy for clicks.

  18. P3Mission on February 2, 2021 at 5:23 pm

    Dave Hendricks the cold hearted fool. Not knowing when to turn it off mentality shows the true character of a self centered self indulged scum bag who will drag the deceased to try and scrape ratings at any cost for his own benefit. Shame, we have people in the media who make deals with the devil just to stay behind the curve never realizing they never advanced forward. Dave couldn’t shown some respect for all of Melo’s great work in career and off but chose the dark side of media evil. People like Dave will face the wrath of his actions at the end of his lifetime if he even is religious, which i doubt. So be it. Disrespectful Piece of Trash. For the Progress Times to approve this shows the true colors of the Valley’s little newspaper. Keep on supporting them RGV Folks.

  19. Aguilar Family on February 11, 2021 at 4:23 pm

    Our deepest condolences to the Ochoa family. We’ve known the family since the early 60s. If we close our eyes we can still see Melos mom and Dads store . The memories come back of a Penitas gone but it’s people then are not forgotten. Melo Rest In Peace
    Judge not, lest ye be judged.”— Our lord

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