Austin lawyer arrested on racketeering charges

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McALLEN — An Austin attorney was arrested Monday on federal racketeering charges alleging bribery of an already-convicted judge as well as witnesses in state and federal cases.

Marc Rosenthal’s indictment is only the latest of several tied to former state district Judge Abel C. Limas, who pleaded guilty to racketeering in March.

Charges in the indictment unsealed Monday allege that Rosenthal conspired to file personal injury cases in state and federal court based on false testimony; bribed witnesses and former state district Judge Abel C. Limas; and directed others to pay funeral directors and public employees for referrals to his firm.

At the center of Rosenthal’s indictment is former state legislator Jose Santiago “Jim” Solis who worked “of counsel” in Brownsville for Rosenthal’s firm.

Ernesto Gamez Jr., Rosenthal’s attorney, placed the blame on Solis, making him out to be a rogue lawyer and “Rambo” figure bent on pulling Rosenthal down with him. Solis pleaded guilty in April to aiding and abetting Limas’ extortion scheme.

Rosenthal, 49, turned himself over to federal authorities Monday in Brownsville and was later released on $100,000 bond, Gamez said. He entered a plea of not guilty.

The 13-count indictment charges that Rosenthal paid Limas for favorable rulings on his cases. It includes several counts of mail fraud on cases — one involving the crash of a medical services helicopter and another involving the corporate owner of the newspapers in Brownsville, Harlingen and McAllen — and witness tampering involving the settlement of a federal lawsuit with Union Pacific railroad.

In June, Alicia Sanchez filed a lawsuit against Solis and Rosenthal, who helped her win a $14 million settlement after her husband died in a 2008 crash of a medical services helicopter. The lawsuit filed by Sanchez and her two children in Travis County seeks nearly $5.3 million.

Rosenthal’s firm declared his innocence in a statement released Monday.

“The admissions of wrongdoing from the judge and others are disheartening,” the statement from Rosenthal & Watson said. “But we were not aware of their improper activities. We expect to see Marc vindicated.”

Printed on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 as: Austin lawyer arrested on racketeering charges.