AP NEWS

Former state Senator Ron Calderon officially pleads guilty in bribery case

June 21, 2016 GMT

LOS ANGELES >> Former state Sen. Ron Calderon plead guilty Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder to one count of mail fraud, in a federal corruption case that also involved his brother, former state Assemblyman Tom Calderonwho plead guilty two weeks agoto one count of money laundering.

U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors will seek a penalty of five years and 10 months against Calderon, according to the plea agreementthe two parties reached last week. However, U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder could sentence Calderon up to 20 years in prison and fine him $250,000, the statutory maximum for the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 19.

Attorneys with the DOJ also agreed to dismiss the other 23 counts of public corruption, mail fraud, wire fraud, bribery and money laundering.

In Tom Calderon’s case, U.S. prosecutors agreed to seek a penalty of no more than a year but Judge Snyder could sentence him up to 20 years. He served in the Assembly from 1998-2002. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 12.

Ron Calderon, 58, of Montebello, served in the state Assembly from 2002 to 2006 and in the state Senate from 2006 to 2014.

In the plea agreement, Ron Calderon admitted to accepting bribes fromMichael Drobot Sr., former CEO of Pacific Hospital of Long Beach, who hoped to reap millions of dollars in illicit profits from a separate fraud scheme.

Drobot paid Ron Calderon’s son $30,000 over three summers beginning in June 2010 for a part-time job. In return, Calderon agreed to support legislation to delay or limit changes in workers compensation laws relating to the amount of money medical providers are reimbursed for performing spinal surgeries, according to the agreement.

Drobot has since pleaded guilty as part of a massive healthcare fraud scheme that he orchestrated.

Ron Calderon is not implicated in the healthcare fraud scheme, but Drobot was a client of Tom Calderon’s political consulting firm.

In the second part of the bribery scheme, Ron Calderon 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 payments — including $3,000 monthly payments to his daughter for services she never provided and trips to Las Vegas worth about $12,000 — Ron Calderon agreed to support an expansion of a state law that gave tax credits to studios that produced independent films in California.

One of the undercover agents also made a $5,000 payment toward his son’s college tuition and a $25,000 payment to Californians for Diversity, a non-profit entity that Ron Calderon and his brother used to pay themselves.