Prosecutor pocketed cash from defendant’s mom in exchange for dropped charges, feds say

A Texas prosecutor could spend the next 20 years behind bars after he pleaded guilty to an extortion charge, officials said.

As an elected Starr County attorney, Victor Canales, 50, was responsible for prosecuting misdemeanor crimes, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas said in a Sept. 5 news release.

In September 2021, a woman went to Canales for help after her son was charged with three misdemeanors, the release says. Canales told the woman he could “take care of” the charges for $1,500, prosecutors said.

“The mother gave Canales three money orders totaling $1500. He deposited the proceeds into his own checking account and used it for his own personal needs rather than depositing the monies into the Starr County account,” the attorney’s office said.

An attorney for Canales did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on Sept. 6.

After that, he sent letters to Cameron County saying the defendant’s charges would be dropped, the news release said.

Canales’ plea agreement shows he pleaded guilty to one count of Hobbs Act extortion under color of official right. An indictment filed in April lists eight other charges Canales is accused of, including federal program theft and extortion.

An April news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office says Canales “embezzled property worth at least $5,000” from 2018 to 2021.

“Canales knowingly obstructed and affected commerce by extortion by obtaining property not due to him on four separate occasions in 2021,” the release said.

Part of the plea agreement filed Sept. 6 says the government recommends the remaining eight counts be dropped at the time of sentencing.

Canales is set to be sentenced in December and faces 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine, the release said. He is out on bond.

Starr County is along the U.S. border with Mexico. Its county seat, Rio Grande City, is about 225 miles south of San Antonio.

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