Melody Gutierrez, San Francisco Chronicle, February 22, 2014
California state Sen. Ron Calderon and his brother, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon, were indicted on federal public corruption charges Friday stemming from a wide-ranging investigation that ensnared the senator’s children and a hospital executive.
Ron Calderon, 56, has agreed to surrender Monday on 24 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and tax fraud, officials said. The allegations, if proven, carry a combined maximum of 400 years in prison.
His brother, Tom Calderon, 59, surrendered Friday morning after he was indicted on seven counts of money laundering. The allegations against Tom Calderon carry a combined maximum sentence of 160 years.
According to the indictment, Ron Calderon, D-Montebello (Los Angeles County), “would perform official acts favorable to the individuals paying him bribes and kickbacks, including introducing and supporting legislation on their behalf, and seeking the support of other public officials and their staff for such legislation.”
U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. said the senator received about $100,000 in bribes as well as lavish trips on chartered planes, gourmet dinners and expensive golf outings in exchange for pushing legislation through the Capitol. Ron Calderon is also accused of soliciting a $5,000 payment for his son’s tuition from an undercover FBI agent, who posed as a film studio executive seeking political favors.
The Calderon case began as FBI agents investigated Michael Drobot, the former owner ofPacific Hospital, a Long Beach facility that is a major provider of spinal surgeries paid for by workers’ compensation programs. Birotte said Drobot allegedly bribed Ron Calderon to preserve a law that allowed Drobot to be overcompensated for spinal surgeries through a fraud scheme.
According to investigators, Ron Calderon had Drobot hire his son for 15 days of work each summer for three years at $10,000 per year at one or more of Drobot’s companies–to help his son raise tuition money.
Drobot, 69, of Corona Del Mar (Orange County) agreed to plead guilty to charges of conspiracy and kickbacks. Investigators allege Drobot’s hospital billing scheme netted $500 million in fraudulently submitted claims paid for by the state’s workers’ compensation program during a five-year period.
Birotte said Drobot admits paying Ron Calderon bribes to push legislation that kept that money flowing to his hospital.
Ron Calderon is also accused of accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from undercover FBI agents who posed as Hollywood film studio executives who wanted him to support a film tax credit. According to the indictment, the agents hired Ron Calderon’s daughter for a job–she never worked–and paid her $39,000, in exchange for her father’s political support on the tax credit.