Business & Real Estate

Ex-CalPERS chief Buenrostro jailed in Sacramento on battery of former girlfriend

Former CalPERS Chief Executive Officer Fred Buenrostro testifies at the Legislature in 2005 on pension issues.
Former CalPERS Chief Executive Officer Fred Buenrostro testifies at the Legislature in 2005 on pension issues. Sacramento Bee file photo

The former chief executive of CalPERS, already facing a prison term in the pension fund’s corruption scandal, was arrested in Sacramento over the weekend on charges of committing battery against a former girlfriend.

Fred Buenrostro, due to be sentenced May 18 after pleading guilty to accepting bribes, was being held at the Sacramento County main jail without bail after his arrest by Sacramento police late Saturday on misdemeanor battery and domestic violence charges, according to jail records.

It was the second time this year that Buenrostro, once the CEO of America’s largest public pension fund, was charged with battery. After pleading no contest, he was sentenced in March to complete a treatment program and spend 60 days wearing an electronic ankle bracelet; he was also placed on probation, defense lawyer William Portanova said.

Because he has now violated terms of his probation, Buenrostro will have to serve the rest of the 60-day sentence behind bars, Portanova said. It wasn’t clear how many days are left on that sentence. Nor was it clear whether Buenrostro will be able to appear for sentencing next month in the bribery case in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, the lawyer said.

In the federal case, Buenrostro, 66, has been free on bond since he pleaded guilty in 2014 to accepting more than $250,000 in bribes from investment banker Alfred Villalobos, who was seeking investment deals on behalf of his clients.

Buenrostro is expected to receive up to five years in prison in the bribery case. In a separate civil case connected to the scandal, Buenrostro agreed in February to pay the state $250,000 in five annual installments after his release from prison.

In February, following his first battery arrest, a federal magistrate in San Francisco warned Buenrostro that his bail in the bribery matter could be revoked and he could be put behind bars immediately. He was ordered to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and anger management classes, according to court records.

“It’s just very unfortunate, and it’s very wrong. It’s just a tragedy,” Portanova said Monday, referring to Buenrostro’s latest legal troubles. “When these things happen, they have to be dealt with head on. There has to be recognition, and there has to be punishment. There has to be modification of future behavior.”

Brad Pacheco, spokesman for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, said the pension fund had no comment on Buenrostro’s arrest.

The battery arrest represents the latest twist in a scandal that’s become increasingly sordid.

Buenrostro, who ran CalPERS from 2002 to 2008, admitted taking sackfuls of cash and other bribes from Villalobos in a scheme to steer several billion dollars in pension investments to Villalobos’ clients in the private equity industry.

Besides the cash, Villalobos took Buenrostro and former CalPERS board member Charles Valdes on an around-the-world junket in 2006 that included stops in Dubai, Hong Kong and Macau, according to a lawsuit filed by state officials. Valdes died in September 2014, a week after he was beaten by his housemate and domestic partner. The partner was charged with battery and elder abuse; authorities ruled that Valdes died of unrelated health issues. Valdes was never charged in the CalPERS case and said he had done nothing wrong.

In January 2015, police said Villalobos shot himself to death at a gun range in Reno, just weeks before he was scheduled to go on trial in San Francisco. Villalobos, who was in poor health, had pleaded not guilty in the bribery scandal.

Dale Kasler: 916-321-1066, @dakasler