MCALLEN, Texas — A justice of the peace from the Laredo area has pleaded guilty to federal extortion charges for taking a $250 bribe to rig the bond of a man accused of drunken driving.
Ricardo Rangel has been a justice of the peace in Webb County since 2002. Where as part of his job he served as a magistrate judge on various state charges, according to court records obtained by Breitbart Texas.
On Thursday, Rangel, 48, went before U.S. District Judge Diana Saldaña who formally charged him with one count of extortion under color of official right and accepted his guilty plea. As part of his guilty plea, Rangel agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as a witness and to help in any other related investigations. During the hearing, Saldaña set bond for Rangel at $75,000, at his sentencing hearing the justice of the peace faces a possible sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
The accusation against Rangel is that on March 25, 2012 he took a $250 bribe from a bail bondsman in order to grant a lower bond of $1,000 for a man that had been arrested on a driving while intoxicated charge, court records show.
The bail bondsman who was identified only as “Kike” JER who also owns a gaming parlor commonly referred to as “maquinitas” had an assistant named Yvette text Rangel to help lower the bond for the man accused of DWI who was only identified as 22-year-old KAB, court records show.
Rangel then sent his assistant Rolando “RS” to JER’s gaming parlor to collect the money and then take it to the judge, court records show.
While Rangel’s position grants him wide discretion in setting bonds, the fact that he took money in exchange for setting a favorable bond is considered a criminal offense.
Rangel was not indicted but pleaded guilty to the charge which was presented in a form called Criminal Information which speed up the process and could result in him getting a lower sentence upon conviction.
Pleading guilty to Criminal Information is not common but has been seen in South Texas in recent months primarily with high profile cases such as the money laundering case against Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño, the bribery charge against sheriff’s Captain Jose Padilla and the failure to report a felony charge against Treviño’s Chief of Staff Patricia Medina. All three pleaded guilty using that method which means that they had been in constant communication with prosecutors and agreed to the charge and the conditions of the plea agreement beforehand.