Ex-CalPERS CEO Gets 4 ½-Year Sentence

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A former CalPERS CEO who pleaded guilty in a decade-long bribery scandal involving the nation’s largest retirement system was sentenced Tuesday to four and a half years in federal prison.
     Fred Buenrostro, 67, faced a potential 10-year sentence for accepting at least $200,000 in bribes from the late Alfred J.R. Villalobos, who committed suicide in January 2015 while awaiting trial.
     Buenrostro admitted he gave Villalobos, a former Los Angeles deputy mayor and CalPERS board member, confidential information on CalPERS investments in exchange for gifts of cash, jewelry, casino chips and first-class airfare.
     Buenrostro’s sentence was reduced due to his cooperation with investigators, including his willingness to testify against Villalobos before his co-defendant died.
     Still, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said he was “unclear” why the government agreed to cut an additional year off the sentence after the maximum sentence had already been cut in half.
     Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Lucey told the judge that Buenrostro went above and beyond his obligations to cooperate by providing vital information to investigators, even after Villalobos’ death.
     “His cooperation was of such a quality that it warranted an additional one-year reduction on the sentence,” Lucey said.
     Dressed in blue prison garb, Buenrostro apologized for his misdeeds before the judge handed down the sentence.
     “I take full responsibility and accept the consequences of the actions I took,” Buenrostro said. “I’m humiliated, embarrassed and deeply ashamed of my actions.”
     Breyer called Buenrostro’s crimes a “spectacular breach of trust” that eroded public confidence in government institutions, which is essential for their survival.
     “This went so outside the realm of acceptable conduct, it warrants a severe punishment,” Breyer said. “I would have easily imposed the maximum 60-month sentence but for the fact that you have in the government’s view rendered additional substantial assistance in ferreting out conduct which again betrays public trust and reflects criminally on the institutions we have to preserve.”
     He sentenced Buenrostro to four and a half years in prison, plus three years of probation, and fined him $250,000, which will be canceled if Buenrostro pays $250,000 to settle a separate civil lawsuit with the state of California, as planned.
     The SEC sued Buenrostro in a civil complaint in Las Vegas. In January, the federal judge in that case enjoined Buenrostro, ARVCO Capital Research and ARVCO Financial Ventures from committing any more securities violations.
     The SEC accused Buenrostro and Villalobos of fabricating documents to get $20 million in fraudulent placement fees from the New York private equity firm Apollo.

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