Alfred Villalobos, Central Figure in the CalPERS Bribery Scandal, Has Died

court room

On Tuesday, the lawyer of Alfred Villalobos said his client was too sick to attend the trial stemming from his alleged bribery of a top CalPERS official.

On Wednesday, the lawyer said that Villalobos, 71, had passed away.

Villalobos, a former placement agent, was on trial for allegedly bribing a former CalPERS Chief Executive to direct money toward certain investment firms.

More from the Sacramento Bee:

Alfred Villalobos, the Nevada businessman at the center of a corruption scandal that gripped CalPERS, has died, one of his lawyers said Wednesday. Cindy Diamond, one of Villalobos’ defense attorneys, said Villalobos died Tuesday. She declined further comment.

Villalobos’ lawyers, as it happens, were prepared to ask a federal judge Wednesday to delay Villalobos’ trial on bribery charges because of their client’s ill health. In a court filing earlier this week, attorney Bruce Funk said “Mr. Villalobos is not physically or mentally able to participate in his defense, or to even sit through a trial.”

The trial was supposed to begin Feb. 23.

The 71-year-old Villalobos has been in poor health for the past three years, according to his lawyers, with his maladies including a heart condition and neurological problems. When he appeared in U.S. District Court in San Francisco last summer on a pre-trial matter, he walked slowly with the aid of two canes and his breathing was difficult.

[…]

In a statement, CalPERS spokesman Brad Pacheco said, “We remain focused on supporting enforcement authorities as they pursue bringing to justice those who broke the law and violated the trust placed in them by the public employees of California.”

Villalobos had pled not guilty and was facing 30 years in prison.

The death will not change the situation of Fred Buenrostro, the former CalPERS executive who is cooperating with prosecutors in exchange for a reduced sentence.

 

Photo by  Lee Haywood via Flickr CC License

Central Player in CalPERS Bribery Case Is Too Sick For Trial, According to Lawyer

handshake

Alfred Villalobos, the ex-placement agent on trial for bribing CalPERS’ chief executive, is too sick to stand trial, according to his lawyer.

The attorney is pushing for a postponement of the trial, which was set to begin in late February.

Villalobos is 71 years old and has reportedly been in and out of the emergency room in recent months.

From the Sacramento Bee:

In a court filing Monday, attorney Bruce Funk said Villalobos has had “numerous stays in the emergency room” in the past few months. “Mr. Villalobos is not physically or mentally able to participate in his defense, or to even sit through a trial,” Funk wrote.

[…]

In the court filing, Funk said his client was “incoherent” the last time they spoke on the phone, last Wednesday.

Funk wouldn’t go into details, but Villalobos, 71, has clearly been in declining health. His trial, originally set for last March, was postponed after lawyers said he was suffering from various heart ailments and neurological problems.

When he appeared in court last July, the Reno businessman’s breathing was labored and he walked with two metal canes.

Villalobos is accused of paying $250,000 in bribes to Fred Buenrostro, the former CEO of CalPERS, in an effort to steer pension fund investment dollars to Villalobos’ private equity clients. A former California Public Employees’ Retirement System board member, Villalobos earned $50 million in commissions representing clients seeking CalPERS investments.

Fred Buenrostro, former CEO of CalPERS, pled guilty to accepting Villalobos’ bribes.

Villalobos faces up to 30 years in prison.

 

Photo by Truthout.org via Flickr CC License

Sentencing Pushed Back For Defendant in CalPERS Bribery Case

Fred Buenrostro

The sentencing of Fred Buenrostro, the former CalPERS executive who pleaded guilty over the summer to accepting bribes, has been pushed back nearly five months to allow further cooperation with the government.

From the Sacramento Bee:

Fred Buenrostro, who left the California Public Employees’ Retirement System in 2008, will now be sentenced May 13 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Buenrostro, who is free on bond, was originally scheduled for a Jan. 7 sentencing.

Buenrostro pleaded guilty in July to accepting bribes from former CalPERS board member Alfred Villalobos, a Reno businessman who earned millions in commissions securing pension fund investments for various private-equity firms. Buenrostro said he took more than $250,000 in cash, casino chips and other benefits from Villalobos, who prosecutors say was trying to gain favor for his investment clients.

As part of his guilty plea, Buenrostro agreed to testify against Villalobos, who has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors and Villalobos’ lawyer filed a joint statement in court last week asking for the postponement “in order to permit Mr. Buenrostro’s ongoing cooperation with the government.”

Judge Charles Breyer agreed to reschedule the sentencing. Buenrostro is expected to get a five-year prison term, according to the plea agreement, although the judge will have the final say.

Villalobos, who is also free on bond, is scheduled to go to trial in February on three felony charges. If convicted, the 70-year-old Villalobos could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison. Villalobos is a former deputy mayor of Los Angeles who served on the CalPERS board in the early 1990s.

More Pension360 coverage of the bribery scandal can be read here.

More Details Emerge About SEC, DOJ Probe Into State Street Pension Business

SEC Building

State Street won a $32 billion contract from Ohio’s retirement systems after the firm hired a lobbyist who had a cushy relationship with Ohio’s then-deputy treasurer. The deputy treasurer, in turn, had oversight of the contract.

That allegation is one among several levied against State Street by the Department of Justice and the SEC, who are probing the way State Street solicited public pension business.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Federal officials are examining the connections between Boston financial giant State Street Corp. and an Ohio lobbyist as part of a broader look at the company’s dealings with public pension funds, according to people familiar with the investigations.

The scrutiny from the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission centers on State Street’s hiring of the lobbyist in 2010, several months before winning a contract to provide administrative services for $32 billion in three of Ohio’s largest retirement systems.

[…]

In Ohio, the investigation in part concerns the relationship between lobbyist Mohammed Noure Alo and Ohio’s then-deputy treasurer, Amer Ahmad. The men were in touch roughly 14 times a day over a certain period via text and phone, according to court testimony from an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The treasurer’s office had oversight of the contract.

State Street’s interactions with Mr. Alo, the founding member of a Columbus law firm, began in early 2010, when Mr. Alo met a State Street representative at a campaign event for the state treasurer, according to the FBI agent’s testimony last week during a U.S. court hearing. State Street contacted him with a draft contract for work as a lobbyist and Mr. Alo forwarded that document to Mr. Ahmad, the FBI agent said.

Mr. Alo, who became a registered Ohio lobbyist in 2010, also approached Bank of New York Mellon Corp. with the same request, leaving a voice mail claiming the bank’s existing business with the state was “not really guaranteed to stay with you,” according to the testimony. Both banks were vying for a contract to handle assets held by three Ohio pension funds. Bank of New York Mellon didn’t retain Mr. Alo, while State Street eventually agreed in the contract to pay him $16,000 upfront, according to the FBI testimony. BNY Mellon declined to comment.

Federal officials uncovered what they described as a separate $3.2 million kickback scheme involving an Ohio securities broker and the Ohio treasurer’s office while investigating the State Street deal. They brought charges in that case against Messrs. Alo and Ahmad and two other men. All four have pleaded guilty.

The lobbyist, Mohammed Noure Alo, hasn’t been accused of breaking the law in this instance by the SEC of DOJ. But he does have a recent criminal history. From the WSJ:

Mr. Alo, who hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing surrounding the State Street contract, pleaded guilty in December 2013 to wire fraud as part of a separate bribery and money-laundering case. A U.S. judge sentenced him to four years in prison on Wednesday for his role in the scheme, during which he accepted $123,000 from a securities broker picked by the treasurer’s office to handle certain trades for the state. Mr. Alo’s lawyer declined to comment.

Pension360 reported on Monday that State Street had admitted in a regulatory filing to being probed by the SEC and the DOJ.