Ex-Harris Co. Constable Abercia, 2 others arrested
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Former Harris County Precinct One Constable Jack Abercia and two of his top staff members were arrested by the FBI Thursday morning. They face several charges including conspiracy and bribery.
13 Undercover's Wayne Dolcefino has been looking into Abercia's office since last summer.
The FBI investigation began after 13 Undercover was already documenting alleged misconduct in Harris County Constable's Offices across town. It didn't take long for federal agents to make their case at Precinct One, and they moved in to arrest the well-known constable before dawn.
It would be an embarrassing end to a long law enforcement career for Abercia. 13 Undercover had the exclusive video of veteran downtown constable Jack Abercia. He had retired just last week, angrily declaring his innocence to 13 Undercover.
"I haven't done anything wrong, Wayne. I hadn't done anything. I know they have all these pictures. We can take pictures. I just don't stoop like that all and I'm not a crook," Abercia said.
On Thursday morning, 13 Undercover shot exclusive video as Abercia was in handcuffs, moving with the aid of a walker, being taken into the federal courthouse surrounded by FBI agents. Abercia is charged with corruption, allegedly getting the lion's share of an alleged bribe to hire a deputy named Allen James.
Longtime second in command Chief Deputy Michael Butler had allegedly pocketed some of the $5,000 bribe, then brought the rest to Abercia.
"I guarantee you my life he didn't bring me no money," said Abercia.
We watched longtime aide Chief Lt. Ken Wiener bring Abercia's wife to FBI headquarters Thursday morning. Wiener was getting ready to find out he was going to get arrested too.
The 13-count indictment includes charges of bribery and conspiracy. Wiener and Abercia face accusations they were paid to run background checks for private companies.
Just on Wednesday, we had talked to Houston's FBI boss about public corruption.
"It all comes back to greed, money, power," said Stephen Morris with the FBI. "When they step over that line, to take money, to compromise their faith and that allegiance, that shocks people -- shocks the citizens and shocks the psyche of people that are relying on them to abide by the law."
Another constable scandal unfolding. Whatever the outcome, no one can deny the damage done when you see video of lawmen wearing handcuffs.
"Some people view their offices as their own political fiefdom; that's got to stop," said Harris Co. Judge Ed Emmett.
The constable is 78 years old, just diagnosed with cancer, and now he may spend the rest of his life fighting corruption charges.
Abercia, Butler and Wiener are all charged with conspiracy. Abercia and Butler are also charged with bribery in connection with the hiring of an otherwise unqualified applicant for a deputy constable position in return for a $5,000 cash bribe. According to the indictment, Butler physically received the money through an intermediary and allegedly gave Abercia $3,000, while keeping $2,000 for himself.
Abercia and Wiener are also charged with 11 counts of unlawfully accessing the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database for private financial gain. According to the indictment, Abercia and Wiener would solicit and accept cash bribes in return for having unauthorized criminal background checks run on prospective employees of various businesses.
13 Undercover reported weeks ago that Butler turned in his badge days after FBI agents questioned him in a bribery probe. The probe allegedly centers on the hiring of a deputy named Allen James.
The FBI has been investigating Precinct 1 for just a couple of months -- an investigation that began after a 13 Undercover hidden camera investigation into Precinct 1. In the next week, you'll be seeing what we've documented during our 13 Undercover surveillance video of the constable commanders and deputies.
Abercia late Thursday morning pleaded not guilty to the charges and a judge granted a $50,000 unsecured bond. Butler and Wiener are set to be arraigned next week.
If convicted of the conspiracy charge, all three face up to five years in prison. Abercia and Wiener will also face an additional five years in prison for each count of exceeding authorized computer access, while Abercia and Butler could also receive an additional 10 years in prison if convicted of the bribery charge. All 13 counts also include a possible fine of $250,000 and up to three years of supervised release on each count.
13 Undercover has been detailing possible corruption within the Harris County Constable's Office for six months. Two other constables, May Walker and Victor Trevino, are under investigation by the Harris County District Attorney's Office.
Stay tuned to 13 Eyewitness News and abc13.com for details on this exclusive breaking corruption investigation.
13 undercover, wayne dolcefino
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