Reno police say they are investigating the apparent suicide of Nevada businessman Alfred Villalobos, who was facing decades in prison if found guilty in a pending bribery case that rocked the California public workers’ pension system.
Villalobos, 71, was accused of bribing the chief executive of the California Public Employees Retirement System in order to steer investments to his clients’ private equity firms. Villalobos, a former CalPERS board member, was scheduled to stand trial Feb. 23 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
The case had been pushed back due to Villalobos’ failing health. On Wednesday, his attorney Bruce Funk initially planned to seek another delay so that the court could evaluate his client’s “mental and physical health.”
Instead, Funk told the San Francisco federal court his client had died Tuesday in Reno. Funk said he would not comment on police investigating the death as an apparent suicide, but said “if not for his painful illness, he would be alive.”
“Mr. Villalobos was looking forward to being exonerated at trial,” Funk said. “It’s unfortunate his illness left him unable to do that. He was a generous man throughout his life. It’s a sad end. It really is.”
Buenrostro admitted to receiving cash – including paper bags and a shoe box containing $200,000 — and other gifts from Villalobos in exchange for confidential information and help influencing investments at CalPERS.
Other alleged improper dealings included Villalobos hosting and paying for Buenrostro’s 2004 wedding at Villalobos’ Lake Tahoe mansion. Villalobos was also accused of giving Buenrostro a $50,000 loan in return for refusing to testify before the Security and Exchange Commission about the allegations.
Buenrostro faces a possible five-year sentence and $250,000 fine for his part in the case. He is scheduled to be sentenced May 13.