California lawmaker indicted on bribery, corruption charges
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California state senator has been indicted on federal charges that he accepted some $100,000 in bribes from a businessman and undercover FBI agents posing as Hollywood movie executives in exchange for steering legislation in their favor, prosecutors said on Friday.
Democrat Ron Calderon, 56, has agreed to turn himself in on Monday to face two dozen counts of bribery, fraud, money laundering and other charges, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles.
Calderon's brother, Tom Calderon, a former member of the California State Assembly, was also named in the U.S. District Court indictment and charged with conspiracy and seven counts of money laundering. Tom Calderon, 59, has surrendered to federal authorities and was expected to face an arraignment on Friday, Mrozek said.
"Public corruption is a betrayal of the public trust that threatens the integrity of our democratic institutions," U.S. Attorney André Birotte said in announcing the charges.
"Senator Calderon is accused of accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes and using the powers of his elected office to enrich himself and his brother Tom, rather than for the benefit of the public he was sworn to serve," Birotte said.
Phone calls made to Ron Calderon's offices in the Los Angeles area and in Sacramento were not answered on Friday.
According to a 28-page indictment handed down on Thursday, Ron Calderon is accused of accepting roughly $100,000 in cash bribes, along with plane trips, golf outings and jobs for his children, in exchange for influencing legislation.
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In one of those schemes, prosecutors say, the senator took bribes from Long Beach, California, hospital owner Michael Drobot to preserve a legislative loophole that allowed Drobot to defraud the state's health care system out of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Drobot has agreed to plead guilty to separate charges stemming from that scheme and is cooperating in the case against the Calderon brothers, Mrozek said.
Ron Calderon is also accused of taking bribes from undercover FBI agents who he thought worked for an independent Hollywood movie studio in exchange for supporting an expansion of film tax credits in California.
Both Calderons, part of a powerful family dynasty in California state politics dating back several decades, are accused of laundering the bribe money by funneling it through Tom Calderon's consulting firm, Californians for Diversity.
If convicted at trial, Ron Calderon, who also faces tax fraud charges, could face a statutory maximum of nearly 400 years in prison, although federal sentencing guidelines typically call for much less time. Tom Calderon could face a maximum of 160 years behind bars.
In June, FBI agents raided the Sacramento offices of Ron Calderon and the legislature's Latino Caucus, of which he was a member of the executive board.
At the time, high-profile Los Angeles attorney Mark Geragos told the Sacramento Bee newspaper that prosecutors had no case against Calderon and should be "ashamed of themselves" because he believed they had leaked word of the raid to the media.
Geragos could not be reached for comment on Friday afternoon and his office declined to say if he was still representing Calderon.
In November, Calderon was removed from the board of from his legislative committee assignments during the investigation.
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