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

TX women’s program makes gains after years of waning participation
TX women’s program makes gains after years of waning participation

A state health program for low-income women served more patients, attracted more providers and put more women on long-acting reversible contraception last year than in prior years, according to a report released Thursday. Even with the improvements, it’s unclear whether the program, called Healthy Texas Women, is serving more women than before...
Bastrop bar sued, accused of airing Mayweather-Pacquiao 'fight of the century' without purchasing rights
Bastrop bar sued, accused of airing Mayweather-Pacquiao 'fight of the century' without purchasing rights

A company that licenses the rights to air pay-per-view boxing matches is suing a bar in Bastrop, accusing the bar of illegally showing the so-called “fight of the century” in 2015 in which five-division world champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. defeated eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao in a boxing match in Las Vegas. J&J...
Explosive device with note found outside Beaumont Starbucks, police say
Explosive device with note found outside Beaumont Starbucks, police say

Police found an “explosive device” at a Starbucks in Beaumont early Thursday. “The device, believed to be a legitimate explosive device, was rendered safe by the FBI and ATF bomb technicians,” Beaumont police said in a statement.  As a result, Beaumont police are urging their community not to open or touch suspicious...
Austin City Council renames two streets named for Confederate leaders
Austin City Council renames two streets named for Confederate leaders

Robert E. Lee Road and Jeff Davis Avenue are no more after the Austin City Council on Thursday voted to remove the names of the Confederate leaders from the two Austin streets that bear their names. Instead the road that ambles along Barton Creek into the Zilker neighborhood will be named for Azie Taylor Morton, the country’s first and only black...
Onyeri guilty on all 17 counts in case tied to Judge Kocurek shooting
Onyeri guilty on all 17 counts in case tied to Judge Kocurek shooting

A federal jury returned guilty verdicts on all 17 counts against the Houston man accused of shooting Travis County state District Judge Julie Kocurek to preserve a white-collar criminal enterprise that swept up victims in Southeast Texas, Louisiana and Austin. The verdict that could send 30-year-old Chimene Onyeri to prison for the rest of his life...
More Stories