DWI Dude Jamie Balagia released on bond in money laundering case

An offbeat Austin-area defense attorney who has built a practice representing clients accused of drunken driving and marijuana possession spent 11 days in an East Texas jail after federal authorities charged him with scamming $1.2 million from Colombian clients.

Jamie Balagia, who operates law firms in Manor and in San Antonio, was released on bond from the Fannin County Detention Center at 10:47 a.m. Monday, jail records show. Balagia, 56, agreed to stop practicing law until his case is resolved, according to court records that provide the conditions of his release.

The attorney who markets himself as the DWI Dude and the 420 Dude was arrested by the FBI on March 9 in McKinney near Dallas and charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and obstruction of justice. He was released on an unsecured $100,000 bond by U.S. Magistrate Judge Christine Nowak of the Eastern District in Sherman.

Citing unnamed sources, the San Antonio Express-News reported last week that Balagia is accused of joining an investigator and another defendant in a scheme to get $2 million from clients by promising to use the money to bribe judges and prosecutors. No one was bribed, sources told the newspaper.

Balagia allegedly split the money with his co-defendants and pocketed $600,000 for himself.

Court records list four women with whom Balagia is to avoid all contact because they are either an alleged victim or a witness.

The investigator accused of taking part in the scheme, Charles N. Morgan, has been in federal custody since November on the same charges, and was indicted in December. The third co-defendant is not named in court documents.

If convicted, each defendant faces up to 20 years in prison.

A woman who answered a phone at Balagia’s office in Manor declined comment. His attorney, Kirk Lechtenberger of Dallas, did not respond to messages.

At a court hearing last Thursday in Sherman, Balagia called three witnesses to speak on his behalf, according to prosecutor Heather Rattan of the U.S. attorney’s office. His wife testified that she has Stage 4 cancer. Dallas-area attorney Deandra Grant told the court she will be inheriting cases Balagia is working on.

Rattan argued Balagia is a flight-risk and a danger to the community, adding that Balagia has a history of not following rules including drug use when he was an Austin police officer and a State Bar action for which he was on probation at the time of the charged activity. He was accused of improperly keeping $50,000 from two clients and was sentenced in 2014 to nine months of probation by the State Bar’s disciplinary arm.

He will be supervised on electronic monitoring and permitted to leave his home only for work, church and court appearances.

He is scheduled appear in U.S. Eastern District Court in Plano on May 15.

Balagia ran for attorney general in 2014, campaigning on marijuana legalization and improved police accountability. The Libertarian candidate received 2.5 percent of the vote, finishing third to Republican Ken Paxton and Democrat Sam Houston.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Judge says kidnapped sisters should stay in foster home for now
Judge says kidnapped sisters should stay in foster home for now

A Williamson County judge on Tuesday determined that two sisters safely recovered in Colorado after being kidnapped will remain in foster care while screenings are being done on relatives who have expressed interest in raising them. Lilianais Victoria Griffith, 14, and Luluvioletta Bandera-Margret, 8, were abducted from their Round Rock home where...
TEXAS DIGEST: Suspect on Texas 10 Most Wanted list caught

PUBLIC SAFETY Suspect on Texas 10 Most Wanted list caught A suspect on the Texas 10 Most Wanted list has been caught in California after months on the run. The Texas Department of Public Safety on Tuesday announced the arrest of 32-year-old Blake Everett Reed. A DPS statement says Reed was captured Sunday at a home in Cayucos, Calif. Investigators...
Trump names Austin lawyer Alan Albright to federal bench

President Donald Trump on Tuesday nominated Austin lawyer Alan Albright to be a federal district judge in Waco. Albright, 58, specializes in intellectual property litigation as a partner in the Bracewell law firm and served as a U.S. magistrate judge in Austin from 1992-99. Albright also is a former adjunct professor who taught trial advocacy at the...
Police: Teen claims ‘fatal attraction’ before stabbing woman in face
Police: Teen claims ‘fatal attraction’ before stabbing woman in face

Austin police issued a warrant Tuesday for a 17-year-old woman who reportedly broke into a man’s East Austin home and maimed his girlfriend. The man told police he awoke to “loud commotion” on Jan. 13 and saw Taneese Mackey in his bedroom. Mackey and the man’s girlfriend argued and wrestled before Mackey stabbed her in the face...
Manor police: Suspected drunken driver drove van with kids off bridge
Manor police: Suspected drunken driver drove van with kids off bridge

Manor police say a suspected drunken driver drove a minivan carrying his wife and three children off a 50-foot bridge and into a creek on Saturday night. Desire Lukusa, 41, faces charges of child endangerment and driving while intoxicated, according to Manor police. An arrest affidavit filed Sunday says officers received reports about 10:30 p.m. of...
More Stories