August 31 2011 – LOS ANGELES – A California attorney was found guilty today of federal extortion and obstruction of justice charges related to a scheme in which he accepted a $50,000 cash payment after promising that a client would lie to authorities conducting a federal grand jury investigation.
Alfred Nash Villalobos, 46, who currently resides in South Lake Tahoe, was found guilty of two counts contained in a 2009 indictment – endeavoring to obstruct a grand jury investigation and interfering with interstate commerce by extortion.
As a result of today’s convictions, Villalobos faces a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years when he is sentenced on December 12 by United States District Judge George H. King.
Villalobos formerly lived in the West Hills district of Los Angeles and, according to California State Bar records, still maintains an office in that part of the San Fernando Valley. The jury that returned the guilty verdicts today determined that in 2009, when he still resided in the Los Angeles area, Villalobos solicited cash and other compensation totaling more than $100,000 from the target of a federal grand jury investigation. In exchange for the payments, Villalobos agreed to cause his client, who was a witness in the grand jury investigation, to make specific false statements to the Assistant United States Attorney and the grand jury conducting that investigation. This conduct formed the basis of the obstruction count.
In addition to obstructing justice, Villalobos was 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 August 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.
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. In exchange for the false testimony, Villalobos expected more than $100,000 in cash and other forms of payment. 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.
Villalobos agreed to the meeting in Century City so the first $50,000 of the $107,000 bribe could be paid in cash. Villalobos agreed to accept the remainder after his client provided the promised false testimony. After Villalobos accepted the cash, he was taken into custody by FBI agents posing as workers in the law firm.
Villalobos faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison for his conviction of obstructing a grand jury proceeding, and another potential 20 years in federal prison for his conviction of attempted extortion by blackmail.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Joseph N. Akrotirianakis
Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section
Assistant United States Attorney Mark R. Yohalem
Criminal Appeals Section