LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — California State Sen. Ron Calderon and his brother have been indicted by a federal grand jury on multiple political corruption charges, including mail and wire fraud, bribery and money laundering, federal officials said Friday.
Calderon, 56, and his brother, 59-year-old Thomas M. Calderon and a former member of the California State Assembly, were named in a federal indictment Thursday, Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said. The Democratic lawmaker, who is traveling, has agreed to surrender to federal authorities Monday.
According to the 24-count indictment (PDF), 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.
Tom Calderon was also charged in the money laundering conspiracy and money laundering and self-surrendered Friday morning, Mrozek said. Tom Calderon pleaded not guilty to the charges Friday afternoon and is expected to be released after posting a $25,000 appearance bond.
“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,” U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said in a statement.
According to the indictment, Caleron 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. Drobot allegedly bribed Calderon to preserve a law that allowed Drobot maintain a health care fraud scheme taking advantage of health insurance companies.
Federal officials say Calderon is not implicated in the health care fraud scheme, but allegedly acted on Drobot’s behalf in exchange for employment for his college-age son, plane trips, golf outings and expensive dinners. Calderon also allegedly arranged meetings between Drobot and other public officials to help him maintain his health care fraud scheme.
In a federal case accusing him of conspiracy and paying illegal kickbacks filed Friday morning, Drobot admitted to paying bribes to Ron Calderon in a plea agreement, federal officials said.
According to the indictment, Calderon also solicited and accepted bribes from people he thought were with an independent film studio but were actually undercover FBI agents. Federal officials say Calderon agreed to support expanding a state law that gave tax credits to studios that produced independent films of at least $1 million in California in exchange for his daughter being paid $3,000 a month for a job he knew she was not performing, $5,000 for his son’s college tuition and $25,000 for a non-profit political organization operated by the lawmaker.
The indictment alleges Calderon took several official actions to lower the threshold of this law to $750,000, including meeting with other state senators and introducing new legislation to create a separate tax credit.
“Corruption victimizes each and every one of us. The indictment alleges Mr. Calderon traded influence for cash in the 30th District and beyond. In addition to robbing
us of taxpayer money, corrupt practices rob us of trust in government,” said Bill Lewis, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, in a statement.
The embattled senator was stripped of his committee assignments in November amid a federal investigation involving allegations he accepted money in return for promoting certain bills. Calderon’s offices in Sacramento and Montebello were also raided by FBI agents in June.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said he has the support of the Democratic caucus in calling for Calderon to resign or take a leave of absence in the wake of the charges.
In a statement, Steinberg says that the charges “strike at the very heart of what it means to be a public official.”
If Calderon does not resign or take leave, Steinberg says the Senate will suspend him.
Calderon represents the 30th Senate District, which includes Bell, La Mirada, Whittier, Montebello — where he lives with his family — and portions of Los Angeles.