SACRAMENTO — Former state Sen. Paul B. Carpenter's life on the lam could become more difficult after a federal court order Monday froze the state pension money being paid into his credit union account.
A U.S. District Court judge ordered the Golden 1 Credit Union to withhold up to $68,750 from Carpenter's account. The amount represents the potential fine that the former politician faced if he had not fled the country before he was scheduled to be sentenced on political corruption charges last month.
The order withholds "the money that is there now or is deposited there in the future," said U.S. Atty. Charles J. Stevens, who asked for the garnishment.
The Downey Democrat, who was forced off the State Board of Equalization after his conviction, has been collecting $1,842 a month from the Legislators' Retirement System.
"Our efforts to locate and extradite Mr. Carpenter are ongoing," Stevens said. "In the meantime we are going to seize his assets--assets that might aid his flight--and to make sure he is not living in comfort while he owes a substantial debt to the United States."
The former politician failed to appear in court for sentencing after his conviction on 11 counts of mail fraud, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and money-laundering.
Days before he was to be sentenced, Carpenter sent a hand-written note to Judge Edward J. Garcia, saying he had left the country to seek "a more adventuristic" treatment for terminal prostate cancer.
"I find my drive for survival stronger than my sense of obligation to your legal system," Carpenter wrote.
Since Carpenter became a fugitive, the California Public Employees' Retirement System board, which manages legislative pensions, has been seeking ways to stop payments to him.
But a lengthy legal opinion by the retirement system's general counsel, Richard H. Koppes, concluded that there "is no legal authority to permit withholding Carpenter's pension benefits."