State Senator Calderon Stung by Leaked FBI Affidavit about Corruption

Friday, November 01, 2013
Senator Ron Calderon

State Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) a member of a family with deep political roots dating back three decades, has been under intense scrutiny since the FBI raided his office on June 4. People immediately flashed back to Shrimpscam in the ‘80s and ‘90s—when dozens of agents ran a sting that netted 14 public officials—and waited for another shoe to drop.

On Wednesday they got the Imelda Marcos footwear collection.

A thud heard at Al Jazeera Media Network turned out to be the release of a sealed 124-page FBI agent affidavit, filed in U.S. District Court, that implicates Calderon in bribery schemes, details bugged conversations and mentions other lawmakers, including Democratic Senate leader Darrell Steinberg. The affidavit was used to obtain the search warrant for the raid.

Calderon has not been charged with any crimes and the other lawmakers have not been mentioned as targets of the investigation.

The affidavit lays out the sting and documents conversations between FBI undercover agents and Calderon. An agent, posing as the owner of an independent film studio in Los Angeles, met Calderon in February. The senator, who authored legislation regulating independent film studios, began a relationship with the agent that lasted for months.

In the ensuing months, agents conveyed $60,000 to Calderon as he worked to amend his legislation to expand tax credits for independent film studios, according to the affidavit.He also allegedly put a woman he thought was the agent’s girlfriend on the public payroll in an exchange of favors.

Part of the money Calderon got, $27,000, was salary for his daughter, Jessica, who the studio owner hired. Her compensation was doled out in nine $3,000 payments. Calderon told the agent that his daughter worked four days a week at two other jobs, and the agent’s affidavit said Jessica “has received these payments even though she has never done any work.” Other money went to defray son Zachary’s education expenses at the Berklee School of Music in Boston.  

The affidavit also alleges there is “probable cause to believe that Ronald Calderon and Tom Calderon [Ron’s brother] were involved in a separate bribery scheme with Michael D. Drobot, the Chief Executive of Pacific Hospital of Long Beach.” The affidavit said that Drobot directed a million-dollar payment and $10,000 a month to Tom for consulting work and $28,000 to Ron’s son Zachary. In exchange, Calderon worked to prevent changes in state law wouldn’t impact the hospital’s spinal fusion surgery business.

Earlier this year, the State Compensation Insurance Fund filed racketeering charges in U.S. District Court Central District of California against Drobot and his companies, alleging fraud schemes that netted $161 million through, what Al Jazeera described as, “inflated surgery room and spinal implant reimbursement fees.”   

Two months after the raid on Calderon’s office in June, the FBI served subpoenas on the Central Basin Municipal Water District seeking documents on agency officials and contracts connected to Tom Calderon. Tom, a former assemblyman from 1998-2002, had been paid $750,000 in consulting fees by the district since 2004. Ron has authored legislation on behalf of the water district.

Tom announced a week ago that he wouldn’t run for his brother’s Senate seat when Ron is termed out next year. Brother Charles Calderon is a former Assemblyman.

Calderon’s attorney, Mark Geragos, told the Los Angeles Times he thought the affidavit was “fabricated and untrue.” At least, that was his “guess.” Geragos’ clients have included Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder, Gary Condit, Susan McDougal and Scott Peterson.

On Thursday, Senator Steinberg kicked Calderon off the California Film Commission, “your one-stop resource for film and TV production across the Golden State.” Steinberg said he was compelled to do it “if for no other reason, the appearance of impropriety.”

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

FBI: California State Senator Aided Alleged Multimillion-Dollar Fraud (by Trevor Aaronson, Al Jazeera)

Two California State Senators Deny Involvement in Calderon Schemes (by Trevor Aaronson, Al Jazeera)

California Sen. Ron Calderon Removed from Film Commission (by Christopher Cadelago and Jon Ortiz, Sacramento Bee)

State Sen. Calderon Was Target of FBI Sting, TV Report Says (by Patrick McGreevy and Anthony York, Los Angeles Times)

Calderons Are Longtime Targets of Federal Agents, Affidavit Says (by Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times)

FBI Affidavit (U.S. District Court Eastern District of California)

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