Villalobos, defendant in CalPERS corruption case, dies

e* Villalobos may have killed himself

* Accused of bribing CalPERS official

* Trial was set for next month

Villalobos’ attorney told the U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Wednesday, Jan. 14, that his client had died, according to the Sacramento Bee, as reporter by Reuters news service. The newspaper quoted a police official in Reno, Nevada, saying that the death was being investigated as a suicide. Over the past five months, Villalobos’ health had declined and he had become incoherent, according to a brief filed with the court earlier this week.

Villalobos’ attorney and the Reno Police Department did not immediately return calls to comment.

Villalobos, whom the FBI in August had said was living in Reno, was facing trial next month for charges of bribing a chief executive of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the country’s largest public pension fund, and for faking documents to gain million of dollars in investments fees.

Earlier this week, attorneys for Villalobos argued he was not physically or mentally fit to sit through a trial, after his deteriorating health had resulted in numerous emergency room stays, court filings show. In a phone call with his lawyers earlier this month, Villalobos had difficulty communicating and following the conversation.

U.S. prosecutors alleged that Villalobos worked as a placement agent that solicited investments by public pension funds in private equity funds. An indictment, originally filed in 2013 and revised last year after former CalPERS Chief Executive Fred Buenrostro pleaded guilty to conspiracy, accused Villalobos of offering bribes in exchange for using pension fund investments.

Buenrostro is scheduled to be sentenced in May.

Federal prosecutors alleged in the indictment that Villalobos had engaged in a conspiracy to commit corruption, defraud the United States, conceal materials and conspire to commit mail and wire fraud.

In his plea agreement, Buenrostro said Villalobos had hosted Buenrostro’s wedding at his home in Nevada, flew the CalPERS chief to Dubai, Hong Kong and Macau, and provided valuable casino chips to now-former CalPERS board members.

Robin Respaut writes for Reuters news service.