SACRAMENTO — Former state teacher's pension fund chairman Gilbert Chilton pleaded guilty today to four counts of extortion, conspiracy, misuse of funds and tax evasion, then wept as he apologized "to those to whom I've caused injury."
Chilton, 43, accepted a plea bargain that could result in up to 30 years in federal prison, U.S. Atty. David Levi said after the court session.
Chilton evaded authorities for four years while he was wanted in three federal cases. He surrendered to the U.S. marshal in Sacramento on May 15 and has been held without bail since then.
At the close of the hearing, Chilton started to make a statement but broke into tears, saying: "Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh." Fighting for control of his voice, he added: "I would like to p1969384553caused injury or harm. . . . I'm sorry."
Girlfriend Stands by Him
During the hearing, Chilton turned several times to smile at his girlfriend, Cheryl Ciccarelli, 26, who said after the session that she still may marry Chilton sometime in the future. "I intend to stand by him. I love him," she added.
Chilton agreed Wednesday to the plea bargain, which will result in dismissal of other charges and avert a trial next week, his court-appointed lawyer Steve Bauer said after the session.
He was indicted in 1986 for extortion and accepting bribes stemming from his 1982 role in the approval of a loan of $50 million in teacher pension funds to a wildcat oil company owned by an ex-convict.
Authorities contend that Chilton received payoffs for approving the loan, and that he and the former president of the oil company, TXPACCO, illegally received about $1.5 million in pension monies.
Chilton was also named in an indictment accusing him and two associates of embezzling more than $440,000 from the Guarantee Savings and Loan Assn. of Fresno, Chilton's former employer. He was also indicted on charges of attempted tax evasion.
A trial on the embezzlement charges was scheduled to begin next Tuesday in Fresno, but after the plea bargains were arranged, all his cases were transferred from federal court in Fresno to Sacramento.