More claims surface in Lucio case - Valley Morning Star : Local News

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More claims surface in Lucio case

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Posted: Sunday, April 7, 2013 10:16 pm

The defense for Eduardo “Eddie” Lucio is seeking access to the government’s alleged inquiry into claims that one of its own prosecutors got too close to a government witness, court records reflect.

The witness, attorney Oscar de la Fuente Jr., is expected to testify in the government’s racketeering case against Lucio and his former law partner, ex-Cameron County District Attorney Armando R. Villalobos.

Lucio’s defense attorney contends in a motion he filed in federal court this past week that De la Fuente Jr. has alleged that Assistant U.S. Attorney Angel Castro obtained favors from De la Fuente Jr. — a San Benito Consolidated Independent School District board trustee at the time — in exchange for favorable plea agreements, and that Castro referred cases to De la Fuente Jr. in return for favors.

Lucio defense attorney John T. Blaylock noted that De la Fuente Jr. made similar allegations against Villalobos — but that the government did not believe the allegations against Castro, but believed those against Villalobos.

De la Fuente Jr. did not respond to a request for comment, while the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined comment on its own and Castro’s behalf.

Blaylock is asking presiding U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen to compel the government to disclose its investigation into Castro, a longtime friend of De la Fuente Jr., both going back since their law school days.

Lucio and Villalobos, his former law partner, are charged with involvement in a racketeering scheme involving bribery and extortion, favoritism, improper influence, personal self-enrichment, self-dealing, concealment and conflict of interest. Both have pleaded not guilty.

The charges against both stem from the inquiry into former 404th state District Judge Abel C. Limas, who has been convicted of racketeering and also is a key government witness against Lucio and Villalobos.

De la Fuente Jr. is a witness in the government’s case against Lucio and Villalobos. Although the federal cases against Villalobos and Lucio have been separated, defense motions that are hoped to help both have been filed in the court record.

In the motion filed Thursday, Blaylock pointed to what he alleges as government selectiveness in believing what De la Fuente Jr. said about Villalobos, but not about Castro.

“Thus, it seems the government is postulating that the deals and sentence reductions being offered to cooperator De la Fuente by its federal prosecutor Castro are normal business, and the plea agreements entered into by State prosecutor Villalobos are somehow corrupt,” Blaylock alleges in the motion.

Blaylock further alleges that the U.S. Department of Justice and Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Surovic, the federal prosecutor in the Villalobos and Lucio cases, investigated the allegations that De la Fuente Jr. made against Castro and cleared him.

“(It was determined that) De la Fuente lied when he accused their own federal prosecutor (Castro) and the government decided not to indict Castro. However, with regards to State prosecutor Villalobos, the government concluded that cooperator De la Fuente was truthful and indictments followed,” Blaylock states in the court record.

“No mention of the De la Fuente’s lies was made to the grand jury that indicted Mr. Lucio,” Blaylock states in the motion.

Castro is assigned to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas is prosecuting the Villalobos and Lucio cases after all federal prosecutors in the southern district, except for Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Wynne, were recused from the cases in May 2012, “based upon the appearance of a conflict of interest,” other court records noted.

However, in the motion filed Thursday, Blaylock alleges that Castro took part in the inquiry into Villalobos and Lucio before the federal prosecutors were recused.

In the motion, Blaylock outlined the alleged dealings between De la Fuente and Castro. All of the following are allegations in the motion:

H Castro referred cases to him; referred a case where the client claims to have paid Limas; and referred a case for one of his relatives to De la Fuente that was dismissed for unknown reasons in Limas’ court;

H Castro asked De la Fuente to use his position on the school board to first help his wife get a teaching job, and then to have his wife transferred to a school closer to home;

H De la Fuente provided Castro with football tickets, and he also got a municipal violation against a federal prosecutor dismissed at Castro’s request;

H De la Fuente had the impression that Castro would give reduced sentences for his (De la Fuente’s) clients;

H De la Fuente, as a favor, agreed to reduce his fee by half for a relative of Castro that had a pending criminal case; Castro wanted the case reduced to a lesser charge for his family member.

According to Blaylock, “the government has concluded that these and other allegations made by cooperator De la Fuente were false.”

Blaylock further alleges that the same federal prosecutors who were investigating Lucio believed that they had probable cause that De la Fuente Jr. was committing crimes since 2006, and yet they continued to negotiate federal cases with him for the following five years.

Hanen’s ruling is pending.

Eperez-trevino@valleystar.com