An ex-VA Palo Alto Healthcare System official was indicted on Wednesday, Dec. 17, for allegedly taking thousands of dollars in bribes from contractors.
A federal grand jury has charged Conrad Lopez Alfaro, 69, with two counts of receiving an illegal gratuity by a public official regarding instances in 2010 in which he allegedly took cash and accepted free construction work on his property.
Alfaro, of Fremont, allegedly accepted $7,000 in cash on Feb. 1, 2010, from Gilroy resident Jack Stringer, 71, while overseeing work Stringer and his company, Aero Drywall Construction of Santa Clara, performed for VA Palo Alto as a subcontractor, according to the indictment filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose.
On March 19, 2010, he allegedly accepted $9,230 in free construction work from Patriot Construction Inc., which was arranged by the company's vice president. Alfaro was overseeing work done by Patriot for the VA at that time.
As of Dec. 17, he had not been arrested, according to court papers.
Alfaro is one of four VA Palo Alto employees who have been charged with taking bribes from Stringer. A May 2011, 44-count indictment against Stringer and three other VA employees alleged multiple instances of bribe taking. The VA employees include contracting officer Tracy Marasco, 48, and engineering technicians Xerxes Zapata and Russell Allgire. Zapata, 68, and Allgire, 58, were contracting officers' technical representatives for different maintenance and construction projects at the Palo Alto VA. Job responsibilities included determining the estimated cost of a project, monitoring contractor performance and analyzing contractor payment requests.
Stringer's company, Aero Drywall, was a subcontractor and could not seek contracts on its own. But Stringer's son owned another company, HUM/V Construction, which was a prime contractor and could receive contracts.
Marasco allegedly steered work to HUM/V Construction and to Aero Construction in exchange for cash and gifts by awarding the prime company contracts, which then benefited Aero Construction. Zapata and Allgire allegedly steered work to HUM/V and to other prime contractors they believed would use Aero Drywall as a subcontractor and provided Stringer with confidential pricing information, according to the complaint.
Marasco allegedly accepted $11,270 in cash and gifts from Stringer between May 2008 and March 2009; Zapata allegedly received airline tickets, payment of bills and other gifts totaling $3,692.77 from Stringer in 2010 and more than $6,000 in cash and supplies from a prime contractor in 2009. Allgire allegedly received $21,000 in cash and gifts in 2008 and 2009, according to the indictment.
Marasco was also charged with making false statements to a government agency. Stringer and Allgire were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering by allegedly arranging payments through a third party, which were converted to Allgire through a bank account and turned into cash.
Allgire, Marasco and Zapata pleaded guilty to single counts of receipt of a bribe by a public official. Zapata and Marasco will be sentenced in January and February 2015, respectively. Allgire must serve two months in federal prison starting Feb. 12.
Stringer also pleaded guilty to one count of bribery of a public official in the amount of approximately $20,000. He is scheduled for sentencing on April 6.