California lawmaker due to surrender on bribery, corruption charges

LOS ANGELES Mon Feb 24, 2014 6:02am EST

California Senator Ron Calderon watches Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (not pictured) as he signs into law a bill that would move the date of the California presidential primary from June to February during a ceremony at the governor's mansion in Sacramento, California, in this March 15, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/William Foster/Office of Governor Schwarzenegger/Handout via Reuters/Files

California Senator Ron Calderon watches Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (not pictured) as he signs into law a bill that would move the date of the California presidential primary from June to February during a ceremony at the governor's mansion in Sacramento, California, in this March 15, 2007 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/William Foster/Office of Governor Schwarzenegger/Handout via Reuters/Files

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California state senator was expected to surrender to federal authorities on Monday to face charges that he took bribes from a businessman and from undercover FBI agents posing as Hollywood film executives to steer legislation in their favor.

Democrat Ron Calderon was indicted by a federal grand jury last week on two dozen counts of bribery, fraud, money laundering and other charges.

Prosecutors gave the 56-year-old lawmaker, member of a family political dynasty going back several decades in California, until Monday to turn himself in. He was scheduled for an arraignment in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Monday afternoon.

State senate leader Darrell Steinberg, meanwhile, has called on his fellow Democrat to resign or take a leave of absence during the criminal proceedings, saying that the senate would otherwise seek to suspend him.

According to the 28-page indictment, Calderon is accused of taking some $100,000 in cash bribes, along with plane trips, golf outings and jobs for his children, in exchange for influencing legislation.

The senator's brother, Tom Calderon, a former member of the California State Assembly, was also named in the indictment and charged with conspiracy and seven counts of money laundering.

Prosecutors say Ron Calderon accepted bribes from Long Beach hospital owner Michael Drobot to preserve a legislative loophole that allowed Drobot to defraud the state's healthcare system out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Drobot has agreed to plead guilty to separate federal charges and is cooperating in the case against the Calderon brothers, prosecutors say.

Calderon is also accused of accepting money 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 are accused of laundering the bribe money by funneling it through Tom Calderon's consulting firm, Californians for Diversity.

Tom Calderon, 59, pleaded not guilty during a brief hearing in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Friday and his defense attorney, Shepard Kopp, said that he "categorically denies" the charges against him.

In June, FBI agents raided the Sacramento offices of Ron Calderon and the California legislature's Latino Caucus, where he was a member of the executive board.

In November, Calderon was removed from the board of the Latino Caucus and from his legislative committee assignments by his colleagues because of the investigation.

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.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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Comments (2)
burn’em alive

Feb 24, 2014 8:42am EST  --  Report as abuse
gcf1965 wrote:
Wow, we could make a tv series and have an unending supply of episodes. Call it “Lifestyles of the Rich and Corrupt: A Look Inside the Democrat Political Machine”

Just an observation that when reading any similar headline, it is a good bet to say before even reading the story that democrats are at the center of the piece.

Feb 24, 2014 10:11am EST  --  Report as abuse
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