State Senator Ron Calderon Faces 24 Counts For Fraud, Taking Bribes

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UPDATED: He is accused of taking $100,000 in bribes including $88,000 to influence legislation to extend movie and TV tax credits from an FBI undercover agent.

California state Sen. Ronald S. Calderon (D-Montebello) has been indicted on public corruption charges that include allegations he took over $100,000 in bribes, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles announced Friday at a press conference.

U.S. Attorney Andre Briotte Jr. alleged that Calderon took bribes from an undercover agent whom he thought represented a Hollywood studio as well as a Long Beach hospital official. The feds say he took cash, trips and dinners.

Calderon is being indicted on 24 counts including fraud, wire fraud, bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering and aiding in the filing of false tax returns.

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“Public corruption is a betrayal of the public trust that threatens the integrity of our democratic institutions,” said Birotte. 

Calderon has retained criminal defense attorney Mark Gerragos to represent him in the case.

He was caught in a FBI undercover sting operation that came to light last November, having reportedly accepted $88,000 in bribes from the FBI agent and another businessman to influence legislation to extend film industry tax credits and to change some aspects of the worker's compensation laws.

The film tax credit applies to productions of at least $1 million. Calderon agreed to support a new law lowering that to $750,000 in exchange for his daughter being paid $3,000 a month for a job she would  not actually perform, according to the indictment. 

The feds charge that Calderson supported a lowering of the film budget requirement by signing a letter to other state senators and introducing legislation to create a separate tax credit. 

Aside from the $40,000 to be paid to his daughter, Calderon allegedly solicited $5,000 from the FBI undercover agents for his son's college tuitiion and $25,000 for Californians for Diversity, a non-profit operated by Tom Calderon.

“Ronald and Thomas Calderon were granted the privilege of political office to better the lives of the citizens they represented, but instead Ronald Calderon used his office to commit bribery, tax and other crimes for their own selfish benefit,” said Joel Garland of the IRS Criminal Investigation’s L.A. Field Office. “Today’s actions reaffirm our commitment to this joint agency task force and our pursuit of justice. Public officials hold a position of trust and those who commit bribery, tax fraud and other crimes, take note.”

He was also alleged to have accepted about $30,000 from Ronald Drobot, CEO of the Long Beach Hospital. He did so by hiring Calderon's son as a file clerk over three summers. According to the indictment, the college age son never worked more than about 15 days each summer.

Dobot has pleaded guilty to paying illegal kickbacks and conspiracy.

When the investigation was first revealed by Al Jazeera television last fall, Calderon denied the charges. Despite that, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg moved quickly to remove Calderon from ten committees on which he served. That way Calderon no longer was in a position to have a say on any pending legislation.

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Among the committees Calderon headed was the select committee on film and television, as well as committees on international business, trade and economic development.

The Senate Rules Committee voted to disband the select committee on film and television, which Calderon headed, before it did anything.

Calderon was also removed from the California Film Commission. 

Steinberg reportedly also asked the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate the political corruption charges against Calderon.

The California Latino Caucus also removed Calderon from its executive board.

Ronald, Charles and Thomas Calderon have been part of that caucus for two decades. Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D-Whittier), who is Ronald Calderon's nephew, is also part of the caucus.