Illustration by Chelsea Lovejoy

PERS Death Squads

Balancing Oregon’s state budget with a pandemic and extreme prejudice

In a desperate effort to get Oregon’s Public Employees Retirement System financial crisis under control, state officials have turned to murder, Eugene Weekly found in a recent investigation. For the past two years hired killers have roamed the state seeking out highly paid PERS recipients, including former football coaches and medical school professors who have drawn fat six-figure retirement salaries for years — driving up the state’s costs to unaffordable levels.

Besides mafia-style hits, the death squads have been infecting retirees with the COVID-19 virus, which primarily kills older people, the EW investigation found. Evidence also indicates that the Oregon officials worked as early as 2018 with a laboratory in Wuhan, China, to create the pandemic virus — known for killing the elderly — before it was unleashed on the world in 2019.

Aided by the students from the Catalyst Journalism Project at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications, EW used forensic analysis, digital sleuthing and advanced open-source reporting techniques to analyze statewide death records after receiving reports that an unusual number of PERS recipients had suddenly died in late 2020.

“The numbers just didn’t add up,” explains EW Editor Camilla Mortensen. “Who would have expected so many old people to die?”

EW’s investigation found that the PERS death squads worked with the UO’s Penny and Phil Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact to create the COVID pandemic, which has largely killed retirement-age people around the state. The Knight Campus was designed by Ennead Architects of New York, which also designed the Huawei Wuhan Research and Development Campus, a research facility working on 5G telecommunication in Wuhan.

A spokeswoman for the UO declined to comment on any connection between the university, 5G, the pandemic and the PERS killings, dismissing the EW report as nothing but rumor. “I am here to assist members of the media who approach with questions and inquiries that have been thought through and are based on reliable sources,” Kay Jarvis said. “Asking a question about a rumor does not meet a threshold of legitimacy. There is nothing to this.”

News of the death squads’ existence created a quiet panic among former state employees.

Joseph Robertson, who retired from his job as president of Oregon Health Science University with an annual pension of $962,939, currently tops the list of PERS beneficiaries. EW reached him for a brief phone interview from an undisclosed location where he’s been hiding out since he discovered a bundle of 5G telephones and a COVID test kit, later determined to be infected with the virus, in a package mailed from a fictitious address.

“How did you find me?” Robertson whispered before hanging up the phone. “I have nothing to say.”

Former football coach Mike Bellotti, who once topped the PERS list (he is now No. 3) with his retirement salary of $592,886, said he wasn’t worried about his own safety. “I have a group of former Ducks linemen who stay within earshot,” he said. “But I’m very concerned that the Ducks may not be able to attract top coaching staff if word gets out they’ll be murdered on retirement.”

Phil Knight is rumored to be willing to sacrifice men’s basketball coach Dana Altman to the PERS death squad if he leads the team to another disappointing season. 

State law enforcement officials declined to comment on any pending investigation into the existence of death squads. “Most of our investigators are too busy readjusting their retirement plans to spend much time checking into fake news like this,” a top Oregon State Police official said on condition of anonymity.

Eugene police were all clearing homeless camps in preparation for the World Athletic Championships in July, a spokeswoman said, and didn’t have time for comment. a