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Ex-Palo Alto VA official indicted in bribery case

By HENRY LEE | San Francisco Chronicle | Published: December 19, 2014

(Tribune News Service) — A former U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs official in Palo Alto was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he accepted thousands of dollars in money and construction work in exchange for giving preferential treatment to government contractors.

Conrad Lopez Alfaro, 69, of Fremont was charged with two counts of receiving an illegal gratuity as a public official in an indictment handed down Wednesday in San Jose.

The charges are the latest in an ongoing prosecution by federal officials, who have in court records alleged a “culture of corruption at the Palo Alto VA.”

Alfaro is to appear Jan. 22 before U.S. Magistrate Nathanael Cousins in San Jose. According to the indictment, he accepted $7,000 in February 2010 from Jack Stringer, the owner of Aero Drywall Construction, a subcontractor involved in several contracts with the VA in Palo Alto.

In March 2010, Alfaro accepted $9,230 in construction work done on property he owned from a firm contracted to do work for the federal agency, the indictment said.

In both cases, authorities said, Alfaro received the illegal gratuities in exchange for “favorable treatment” in overseeing the companies’ work.

Stringer is expected to plead guilty to providing a gratuity to a public official for allegedly giving $20,000 in cash to then-Veterans Affairs official Russell Allgire between 2008 and 2009, court records show.

Allgire, 58, who used the money to buy a car, then steered a contract to replace water heaters to Stringer’s company and a second firm owned by Stringer’s son, authorities said.

Allgire gambled on sports and “fell into the habit of asking Stringer to cover his gambling losses,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Nedrow wrote in a sentencing memorandum. Allgire pleaded guilty to receipt of a bribe by a public official and must surrender Feb. 12 to serve two months in prison.

Two other then-Veterans Affairs employees, contracting officer Tracy Marasco of Modesto and Xerxes “Ike” Zapata of Daly City, also pleaded guilty in the case, records show.

Henry K. Lee is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: hlee@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @henryklee

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