Sen. Ron Calderon

LOS ANGELES – A California State Senator was named in a federal grand jury indictment that accuses him of taking tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from a businessman, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Ron Calderon, 56, of Montebello, is also accused in the 24-count indictment of taking bribes from people who said they were associated with a Hollywood film studio but were undercover FBI agents, officials said.

The indictment, which was returned late Thursday, describes a scheme in which Ron Calderon allegedly solicited and accepted approximately $100,000 in cash bribes – as well as plane trips, gourmet meals and jobs for his children.

Calderon has agreed to surrender to authorities on Monday because he is traveling. If convicted of the 24-counts, Calderon is facing up to 396 years in federal prison.

The indictment also charges Thomas M. Calderon, 59, also of Montebello, who is Ronald’s brother and a former member of the California State Assembly.

Along with his brother, Thomas Calderon is charged in the money laundering conspiracy and with seven substantive counts of money laundering.

Ronald Calderon was indicted for mail fraud, wire fraud, honest services fraud, bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and aiding in the filing of false tax returns, the indictment states.

Tom Calderon self-surrendered this morning . He is expected to be arraigned today in U.S. District Court.

The criminal case was investigated by the IRS and FBI, which included three FBI agents doing undercover work related to the Independent Film Studio bribery.

The indictment describes a scheme in which Ron Calderon allegedly solicited and accepted approximately $100,000 in cash bribes – as well as plane trips, gourmet meals at expensive restaurants, high-end golf resorts, privately chartered airplanes and jobs for his son and daughter along with college tuition payments.

“Public corruption is a betrayal of the public trust that threatens the integrity of our democratic institutions,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “Senator Calderon is accused of accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes and using the powers of his elected office to enrich himself and his brother Tom, rather than for the benefit of the public he was sworn to serve.”

Feds: Calderon Opposed Legislation That Was Harmful to Those Who Bribed Him

Federal officials said Calderon would oppose legislation harmful to those who paid the bribes and opposed legislation that was harmful to them.

Ron Calderon allegedly took bribes from Michael Drobot, the former owner of Pacific Hospital in Long Beach, a major provider of spinal surgeries that were often paid by workers’ compensation programs.

California law allowed the hospital to pass on to insurance companies the full cost it had paid for medical hardware it used during spinal surgeries.

In another case filed this morning, federal officisls said Drobot admitted that his hospital exploited this law, which was often called the “spinal pass-through,” by using hardware that had been purchased at highly inflated prices from companies that Drobot controlled and passing this cost along to insurance providers.

Drobot allegedly bribed Ron Calderon so that he would use his public office to preserve this law that helped Drobot maintain a long-running and lucrative health care fraud scheme, according to prosecutors.

While the corruption indictment does not implicate Ron Calderon in the health care fraud scheme, Ron Calderon is charged with taking bribes from Drobot to preserve the spinal pass-through law.

 Calderon’s Son Allegedly Worked 15 Days Each Summer

The indictment specifically alleges that Drobot bribed Ron Calderon by hiring Calderon’s college-age son to work as a file clerk at his company and paying him approximately $30,000 over the course of three summers.

Ron Calderon’s son showed up for only about 15 days of work each summer, according to the indictment, which also accused Ron Calderon of accepting plane trips, golf outings and expensive dinners from Drobot.

Calderon was paid about $10,000 each summer or about $30,000 for the entire time he worked, the indictment indicated.

Ron Calderon allegedly arranged meetings between Drobot and other public officials and helped Drobot attempt to persuade the other legislators to keep the spinal pass-through law in effect.

In another case filed this morning in federal court, Drobot has agreed to plead guilty to charges of conspiracy and paying illegal kickbacks. In his plea agreement, Drobot admits paying bribes to Ron Calderon.

Ron Calderon Allegedly Got Bribes From An Independent Film Studio

Ron Calderon allegedly solicited and accepted bribes from people he thought were associated with an independent film studio, but who were in fact undercover FBI agents.

In exchange for the bribes, Ron Calderon supported an expansion of a state law that gave tax credits to studios that produced films in California.

The Film Tax Credit applied to productions of at least $1 million, but, in exchange for bribes, Ron Calderon agreed to support new legislation to reduce this threshold to $750,000, according to the indictment.

 Ron Calderon’s Daughter Also Got Work In Exchange for the Alleged Bribes

The indictment specifically alleges that Ron Calderon agreed to support the new Film Tax Credit legislation in exchange for his daughter being paid $3,000 a month for a job he knew she simply did not perform.

But she was paid nearly $40,000, the indictment states.

According to the indictment, Ron Calderon took several steps to reduce the threshold for the Film Tax Credit.

Ron Calderon signed an official letter indicating that he supported a lower threshold, he met with other state senators to discuss the benefits of lowering the threshold, and he “caused legislation to be introduced in the Senate, which he intended to use as a vehicle to create a separate tax credit,” according to the indictment.

Also Ron Calderon allegedly solicited from the undercover FBI agents payments that included $5,000 for his son’s college tuition and $25,000 to Californians for Diversity, a non-profit political organization operated by Tom Calderon, the indictment states.

Both Calderons face money laundering charges for allegedly funneling bribe money through Californians for Diversity and Tom Calderon’s consulting firm, some of which went to Ron Calderon and his daughter.

Ron Calderon faces two tax fraud charges for allegedly helping in the preparation of false tax returns that fraudulently claimed business expense deductions in relation to the money his son received from Drobot.

Defendants, including the Calderons, are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

By Raul

Raul Hernandez is a former journalist. He has worked as a newspaper reporter for more than 30 years at the El Paso Herald-Post, El Paso Times, Press Enterprise in Riverside, California and the Ventura County Star in California. He was a court reporter for more than 20 years.

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