Death of key figure in CalPERS scandal viewed as suicide

The figure at the center of a corruption scandal involving the California Public Employees’ Retirement System apparently shot himself to death at a Reno gun club, just weeks before his trial was scheduled to begin in federal court.

Reno police described the death of Alfred J.R. Villalobos, 71, a former member of the board of CalPERS, the nation’s largest public pension fund,  as an apparent suicide. Police said Villalobos was found dead around 3 p.m. Tuesday in a target-shooting room of the gun club. Nobody else was in the room, said officer Tim Broadway.

Villalobos faced federal bribery and corruption charges in connection with his efforts to steer hundreds of millions of dollars of CalPERS investment money to his clients. Villalobos, who served as a placement agent, earned an estimated $50 million in commissions from his clients, which included major private equity firms.

Villalobos was accused of bribing former CalPERS chief executive Fred Buenrostro Jr. with $250,000 in cash and gifts to influence the boards’ decisions. Buenrostro later went to work for Villalobos’ company. Buenrostro, who pleaded guilty in July 2014, is expected to receive a five-year prison term. His sentencing is scheduled in May.

Buenrostro and Villalobos were indicted in 2013 following a lengthy federal investigation. CalPERS services about 1.6 million people, including government retireesd and their families, and by on e estimate has more than $300 billion in assets.

Reno police officer Tim Broadway said Wednesday that detectives were investigating the death Tuesday of Alfred Villalobos as an apparent suicide.

Villalobos was found dead around 3 p.m. Tuesday in a target-shooting room of the gun club. Nobody else was in the room, Broadway said.i

The scandal rocked CalPERS from 2009-11 and prompted an exhaustive, 18-month internal review that led to changes in CalPERS’ procedures.

Villalobos’ trial had been scheduled to begin Feb. 23. Earlier in the week, his attorney had been preparing to ask the court for a delay because of his client’s ill health.

If convicted, Villalobos faced 30 years in prison.

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