A California attorney has been convicted on charges that he accepted $50,000 in cash from the target of a federal investigation in exchange for convincing his client, a witness, to lie to the grand jury.
Alfred Nash Villalobos, who lives in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., but was an attorney in West Hills, Calif., at the time of the alleged bribery scheme, was found guilty on Aug. 31 of one count of obstructing a grand jury investigation and one count of interfering with interstate commerce by extortion.
Villalobos faces a maximum sentence of 30 years. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 12.
His attorney, Richard Steingard, a partner at Lightfoot Steingard & Sadowsky in Los Angeles, did not return a call for comment.
The alleged bribe took place amid an investigation into immigration visa fraud that had targeted Rabbi Amitai Yemini, executive director of the Chabad Israel Center in Los Angeles. Federal law permits people involved in religious occupations to obtain a temporary work visa, but, court documents allege, Amitai falsified employment records for individuals claiming to work at the center.
The jury found that Villalobos, who represented Orit Anjel, a worker who had obtained a visa by claiming to be employed at the center, had agreed to take $107,000 from Yemini’s attorney, Benjamin Gluck, in exchange for having his client make false statements to the assistant U.S. attorney and the grand jury conducting the investigation.
Villalobos received the first installment of that payment, about $50,000, during a meeting with Gluck, who was cooperating with the FBI, in 2009 at the Century City, Calif., office of Bird, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks & Lincenberg, where Gluck is a partner. Gluck made recordings of their conversations for the government. During one conversation, 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 center. He also agreed, for more money, to instruct his client to make false statements about another witness in the investigation — which might lead prosecutors to believe that no fraud scheme existed.
Villalobos was taken into custody by FBI agents posing as workers at Bird Marella.
In 2004, the State Bar of California placed Villalobos on one year of probation with a 30-day suspension after he admitted that he failed to maintain client funds in a trust account, or communicate with a client, or pay out client funds, as part of a $14,500 personal injury settlement.
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