You’ve heard on TV when the cops say ‘if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you?’ San Antonio attorney Hilda Valadez milked that to the max, and now she’s the one being frog marched off to prison to serve a ten year term for ripping off the taxpayers.
1200 WOAI news reprots Valadez, 52, was sentenced for forging the signatures of judges on affidavits so she could collect tens of thousands of dollars more than she deserved for representing indigent defendants. In Bexar County, there is not a ‘public defender.’ Judges appoint attorneys to represent poor clients, and the lawyers’ fees and expenses are paid on a per-case basis out of a special indigent defense fund.
Prosecutors say Valadez was indicted on 46 counts ranging from theft, forgery, to security execution of a document by deception. Officials say she forged the signatures of several judges to collect nearly $80,000 in bogus fees.
What first tipped off officials was the massive amount of money Valadez was collecting representing indigent defendants. Between 2008 and 2011, she pocketed nearly $600,000 in court appointed attorneys fees, a field which usually does not allow lawyers to get rich. Later, officials discovered ‘inconsistencies’ in two vouchers submitted by Valadez for payment.
One thing that prompted State District Judge Stephen Ables to reject Valadez’ request for probation and sentence her to what is a lengthy sentence for a while collar criminal. She said she had the ability to pay $39,000 she still owes the county in restitution, but she failed to fork over a check at sentencing.
The District Attorney’s office also opposed the probation request.