Sacramento, CA — A former CEO of California’s public employees’ pension system who accepted well over $200,000 in bribes during his tenure is heading to federal prison.
Fred Buenrostro, 66, former chief of the 1.8 million-member CalPERS, received a four-and-a-half-year prison sentence on Tuesday from US District Judge Charles Breyer for taking bribes from Alfred Villalobos, a former board member and investment firm owner.
According to prosecutors, Buenrostro accepted paid business trips and $200,000 in cash from Villalobos that was delivered in paper bags and shoe boxes. After leaving CalPERS under duress in 2008, Buenrostro worked for a time under Villalobos as a consultant and was additionally given a gift loan of $50,000 for refusing to testify in a 2010 US Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of the pension system.
Buenrostro pleaded guilty in July 2014 to charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and fraud. Under a plea agreement, federal prosecutors dropped a charge that would have tacked a ten-year sentence onto his prison term. In return, the disgraced executive agreed to turn informant about the incidents, which occurred between 2004 and 2008 and resulted in $50 million in CalPERS-related business being steered to Villalobos’ companies. Although Villalobos committed suicide in January 2015, just before he would have been tried in connection with the crimes, additional investigations into related acts of corruption are ongoing.
In handing out the sentence on Tuesday Judge Breyer chose to give Buenrostro six more months than recommended by the federal prosecutors, additionally ordering him to repay the $250,000 in illegal funds received as a criminal fine or civil penalty to the state.