California state Senator Ron Calderon was indited on 24 accounts of fraud as well as bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering. The 56 year old Montebello, California democrat has agreed to surrender to federal authorities however, he is denying any kind of wrong doing. Calderon’s attorney Mark Geragos stated to the press on Monday that, while no one welcomes an inditement, they welcome the opportunity to disprove the allegations against Calderon in a courtroom.
The case against Calderon began with an undercover FBI sting. An FBI agent posing as a film producer executive reportedly bribed Calderon to push legislation for a film tax credit. Calderon allegedly agreed to the proposal in exchange for his daughter receiving $40,000 for false employment at the agency. As well as $5,000 to his son for a summer job he never worked. Bill Lewis, assistant director of Los Angeles’ FBI field office said that corrupt practices not only robs the taxpayer of money but also robs the people of their trust in government.
Many of the other allegations against Ron Calderon include taking up to $10,000 in bribes from Michael Drobot, former CEO of Pacific Hospital in Long Beach, California. Drobot admitted to giving bribes as well as lavish trips, gourmet dinners and expensive outings in exchange for agreeing to help perpetuate what Deputy Commissioner, Eric Weirich calls “The largest case of insurance fraud in California’s history.” With the help of Ron Calderon, Drobot allegedly exploited California insurance laws to be overcompensated for spinal surgeries. Which would have allowed him to charge the full amount from workers compensation for tools and medical equipment used during surgeries. The equipment used for his surgeries were deliberately bought at inflated prices from companies he controlled.
U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. states, Drobot claimed 500 million in fraudulent claims from workers compensation insurers. Drobot is now facing up to 10 years in prison. As part of his plea deal, Drobot is to testify about others, including the Calderons as well as many doctors who accepted kickbacks so they would refer patients to Drobot’s scheme. For now Michael Drobot is not being charged with acts related to the Calderon’s.
Calderon’s brother, former assemblyman Thomas Calderon has also been indited with seven accounts of money laundering for his role in the conspiracy. Allegedly using his nonprofit organization and political consulting firm to launder money for bribes on behalf of his brother; including $25,000 from the undercover FBI agent. Thomas Calderon combined sentencing has him facing up to 160 years in prison.
Senate President pro Tempore Darrel Steinberg has, with support from the senate’s democratic caucus, called for Ron Calderon to resign, or take a leave of absence until the proceeding are finished. If the California Senator does not comply, The senate will seek a suspension. At a news conference in Los Angeles, The Prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Birotte has this to say “Public corruption is a betrayal of the public trust that threatens the integrity of our democratic institutions.” Ron Calderon is expected to surrender Monday where the prosecution will continue to widen the ring of what is turning out to be one of the biggest public corruption cases in recent history.
By Eric Ohm