Friday, June 22, 2012
Suspended Valley Attorney Sentenced for Extortion, Obstructing Justice
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A suspended West Hills convicted of federal extortion and obstruction-of-justice charges was sentenced to three years in prison yesterday by U.S. District Judge George H. King of the Central District of California.
Alfred Nash Villalobos, 46, was convicted last summer of having accepted a $50,000 cash payment after promising that a client would lie to authorities conducting a federal grand jury investigation, prosecutors said.
A release from the U.S. attorney quoted King as saying that the crimes were “extraordinarily serious offenses” that “threatened the integrity of grand jury proceedings” that are “the foundation of the justice system in this country.” King noted that Villaobos was “an attorney who had taken an oath to uphold the law,” but the lawyer was driven by “his own greed and financial gain.”
The judge said:
“Attorneys need simply to know: If you attempt to corrupt the system of justice, there will be severe consequences to pay.”
Prosecutors said the attorney solicited cash and other compensation totaling more than $100,000 from the target of a federal grand jury investigation in 2009. In exchange for the payments, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said, Villalobos agreed to cause his client, who was a witness in the grand jury investigation, to make specific false statements to the assistant U.S. Attorney handling the case and the grand jury conducting that investigation.
Villalobos was also found guilty of attempting to interfere with commerce through the wrongful use of fear to extort cash payments and other compensation.
The evidence presented at trial established that Villalobos agreed to an Aug. 4, 2009 meeting at a Century City law firm and at the meeting received $50,000 in cash, which was to be the first installment of a $107,000 bribe, prosecutors said.
The bribe was paid by an attorney who represented the target of an investigation into immigration visa fraud and who was cooperating with authorities. The FBI had opened an investigation into Villalobos when he first proposed the bribe scheme to the Century City attorney.
At the time, Villalobos was representing a worker involved in the immigration fraud scheme who had been contacted by the government to provide testimony about the alleged fraud.
During a series of communications between Villalobos and the Century City attorney who was representing the target of the investigation, Villalobos proposed a plan in which he would instruct his client to provide false testimony that would benefit the target of the immigration fraud investigation.
Villalobos explained that his client would be coached to make false statements during an interview with a federal prosecutor, and he “guaranteed” that his client would provide testimony consistent with that interview during later contemplated grand jury testimony.
The Century City attorney reported Villalobos’ proposed scheme to the FBI, and he made recordings of his conversations with Villalobos.
During the conversations, Villalobos requested $107,000 in cash, plus charitable donation receipts. At one point, Villalobos suggested that part of the payment could be in the form of a $6,000 charitable donation receipt for a $100 painting he would donate to the organization allegedly involved in the immigration visa fraud.
Villalobos also agreed that, for an additional fee, he would instruct his client to make false statements about another witness expected to give a statement to federal prosecutors. Villalobos said that the false statements would lead the government to believe that a fraud scheme did not exist and that the other witness was a disgruntled employee who fabricated allegations of immigration fraud.
The attorney, who was placed on interim suspension following his conviction, had been previously suspended three times.
He was suspended in 2004 for one year, stayed, and placed on one year of probation with an actual 30-day suspension after he stipulated that he failed to maintain client funds in a trust account, communicate with a client, or promptly pay out client funds.
Villalobos was suspended again in 2006 for failing to pass the professional responsibility exam, as required by the 2004 disciplinary order, and again in 2007 for failing to pay his bar dues.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company