January 23, 2014

CalPERS bribery figure, in poor health, gets trial postponed

Alfred Villalobos, a key figure in the CalPERS bribery scandal, has had his criminal trial postponed because of poor health.

Alfred Villalobos, a key figure in the CalPERS bribery scandal, has had his criminal trial postponed because of poor health.

The Lake Tahoe businessman and his co-defendant, former CalPERS Chief Executive Fred Buenrostro, will now go on trial April 28 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, a judge ruled Wednesday. Trial was originally set for March 3.

Villalobos’ lawyer, Bruce Funk, said in a court filing this week that Villalobos was hospitalized much of last fall in the Reno area and spent some time in hospice care. “Apparently, Mr. Villalobos suffered from acute ammonia poisoning due to the various medications he was taking for his neurological illnesses,” Funk wrote in his court filing. “Around that time period in November, he was completely unresponsive in the hospital for days.”

This month, he “has begun to regain his health, appears more coherent and is more able to assist in his case, although he does still fatigue easily,” Funk added. Villalobos is 70.

The lead prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Lucey, was unavailable for comment.

This isn’t the first time Villalobos’ health issues have come up in the various legal proceedings he’s facing. In a filing last July in Los Angeles Superior Court, where he’s fighting a lawsuit filed by state officials, his lawyers said he was in “failing health” and nearly died in 2011.

California officials sued Villalobos and Buenrostro in 2010, saying Villalobos bribed the former CalPERS official and others to influence pension investment decisions. Villalobos, a one-time CalPERS board member, was a “placement agent” who helped Wall Street clients get investments from CalPERS and other public pension funds. Buenrostro went to work for Villalobos’ firm in Stateline, Nev., after leaving CalPERS in 2008.

Last March, a federal grand jury indicted the two men, saying they forged documents so Villalobos would get paid millions in commissions by one of his clients, New York private equity firm Apollo Global Management.

Apollo was demanding written proof that CalPERS knew Villalobos would earn a commission for helping the firm get the pension fund’s investment dollars. According to the indictment, Villalobos and Buenrostro created phony letters with CalPERS’ letterhead saying the pension fund knew about Villalobos’ financial interest in the Apollo investments.

The two men have always said they’ve done nothing wrong and pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges.

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