On May 31, a federal judge sentenced the ex-head of the California Public Employees' Retirement System to four and a half years in prison for fraud and bribery. The judge called the defendant's crimes a "spectacular breach of trust" for the purpose of "self-enrichment."
In 2014, the defendant pleaded guilty to accepting more than $200,000 in bribes in exchange for encouraging CalPERS staff members to make investments that favored a former pension fund board member who worked as an investment manager. His actions allowed firms connected to the investment manager to collect $3 billion in pension fund investments and a $14 million commission. He admitted that the bribes began around 2005 and included cash, a trip around the world and an all-expenses paid wedding in Lake Tahoe. The investment manager who paid the bribes denied any wrongdoing but committed suicide in 2015 a few weeks before his trial was scheduled to begin.
The defendant faced up to five years in prison, but federal prosecutors recommended a four-year term because he cooperated in the case against the investment manager. He also reportedly aided the U.S. Attorney's Office with other investigations. In addition to serving time in prison, the defendant must pay $250,000 in restitution to the state.
White collar crimes such as fraud and bribery carry stiff penalties such as lengthy prison terms and heavy fines. Defendants facing such charges may help their case by contacting a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Legal counsel could help the defendant fight the charges in court or attempt to negotiate for a plea deal that mitigates the charges in exchange for a guilty plea.
Source: ABC News, "California Pension Fund CEO Sentenced for Bribery," Sughin Thanawala, May 31, 2016