A former assistant district attorney in El Paso pleaded not guilty in federal court to a charge involving allegations that he conspired through text messages to accept cash if he would seek to dismiss criminal cases.
Antonio “Tony” Reyes was arrested and charged on Nov. 12 with the felony offense of “conspiracy to commit wire fraud and the deprivation of honest services.” Reyes was released from custody on Nov. 13 after posting a $20,000 bond. On Nov. 14, he waived his appearance for arraignment and entered a plea of not guilty.
If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison, a fine up to $250,000 and up to three years on supervised release. If a judge decides against a prison sentence, Reyes could face one to five years of probation.
Reyes, an El Paso general-practice solo, declined comment, explaining, “I actually just got counsel today, and he told me I really shouldn’t speak about it.”
His attorney, Miguel “Mike” Villalba, also declined comment, noting he generally doesn’t discuss pending federal cases.
Renee Railey, a spokeswoman in the DA’s Office for the 34th Judicial District, said that a nine-month grant paid Reyes’ salary and he prosecuted misdemeanor cases in the office between August 2010 and April 2011.
DA Jaime Esparza didn’t return a telephone call or email seeking comment. But Railey emailed a statement by Esparza that said in part, “My office requested assistance from the FBI when we learned of possible misconduct by a former prosecutor who worked in my office for nine months.”
Railey said the alleged conduct is “very rare.”
“We’ve got 90 lawyers in our office, and Mr. Esparza has been a DA 21 years,” Railey said, adding about Reyes, “He was here for a short time, and once we were able to understand what could be possibly going on, the FBI then did the investigation.”
A federal grand jury indicted Reyes on Nov. 6, following an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
United States v. Reyes
alleges that, between March 30, 2011, and April 15, 2011, Reyes conspired with others to commit wire fraud and defraud El Paso County and its citizens of the “honest services” of a public official.
Reyes “agreed to accept and accepted bribes in the form of cash money from persons known to the Grand Jury in exchange for … filing and support of Motions to Dismiss in criminal cases pending against those persons,” alleges the indictment.
It says in executing the scheme, Reyes and the others used “wire communications” to transmit messages “in interstate commerce.” The indictment lists text messages, allegedly sent from Texas, through Georgia or Washington state, and back to Texas. The alleged texts were sent on March 31, 2011, April 4, 2011, and April 8, 2011.
Daryl Fields, a spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas, which filed the case, declined comment.
Mike Martinez, spokesman for the FBI’s El Paso Division, didn’t return a telephone call seeking comment.