Federal prosecutors are trying to bolster their case against the two men charged in the CalPERS bribery scandal by attempting to halt to a series of lawsuits that could interfere with the criminal case.
In an unusual effort coordinated with CalPERS, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the California attorney general's office, federal prosecutors are trying to make sure three pending civil suits don't muddy the waters for the criminal case.
The move is "a sure sign that federal prosecutors are committed to bringing these defendants to justice and sending them to prison," said Philip Khinda, the Washington, D.C., lawyer who investigated the scandal for CalPERS.
A federal grand jury in March indicted former CalPERS Chief Executive Fred Buenrostro and his friend Alfred Villalobos, a marketing agent who earned millions in commission fees securing pension fund investments for his Wall Street clients. Prosecutors said the two men forged CalPERS documents to make sure Villalobos got paid.
Earlier, the two men became enmeshed in civil lawsuits over their alleged acts. The California attorney general's office and SEC sued them for fraud, while Villalobos filed a lawsuit accusing CalPERS of interfering with his business relationships.
Prosecutors are now trying to keep those lawsuits from going forward, arguing that Villalobos and Buenrostro could use the pre-trial discovery process to get "premature access to witness statements and other information" that could be used to undermine the criminal case, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Lucey in a court filing in Nevada last week.
Buenrostro's lawyer, William Portanova, said the move could bolster the prosecution's case. "That level of cooperation is both unusual and unsettling," he said.
Villalobos' lawyer couldn't be reached for comment.
"We remain committed to helping authorities purse their case against those who have harmed CalPERS," said Brad Pacheco, a spokesman for the California Public Employees' Retirement System.
Call The Bee's Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.