After his brother pleaded guilty last week to a money laundering charge in connection with his case, former California State Senator Ronald Calderon agreed to plead guilty to a federal corruption charge on Monday while admitting to soliciting nearly $100,000 in bribes while in office. Although Ron Calderon only agreed to plead guilty to one count of mail fraud, the plea deal also required him to admit numerous other crimes, including accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from undercover FBI agents and using his brother to launder the illicit payments.
Serving as a former member of the California State Assembly between 1998 and 2002, Ron’s brother, Thomas Calderon, became a political consultant and eventually began laundering bribes solicited by his brother in exchange for political favors. Serving as a California Assemblyman from 2002 to 2006, Ron Calderon was elected to the California State Senate in 2006 and served until his indictment in 2014.
“Public officials who engage in corrupt behavior threaten the basic fabric of our democracy,” U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker recently stated. “The Calderons have acknowledged their roles in a bribery scheme in which money for them and their families alone was driving legislation that would have benefited only a few individuals.”
According to his plea agreement, Ron Calderon admitted to accepting bribes from Michael Drobot, the former owner of Pacific Hospital in Long Beach, who later pleaded guilty to operating a massive healthcare fraud scheme. As a client of Tom Calderon’s political consulting firm, Drobot hired Ron Calderon’s son as a summer file clerk in exchange for his father introducing and defending legislation favorable to Drobot. Despite performing little actual work at the hospital, Ron Calderon’s son ended up receiving $30,000 over the course of three years from Drobot.
According to Ron Calderon’s indictment, his daughter received nearly $40,000 in bribes after undercover FBI agents posing as film studio executives asked her father to support an expansion of a state law that gave substantial tax credits to studios producing independent films in California. Although his daughter accepted $3,000 monthly payments from the undercover agents, she never actually provided any services rendered.
Ron Calderon allegedly solicited additional payments from the undercover FBI agents, including $5,000 for his son’s college tuition and $25,000 to Californians for Diversity, a non-profit political organization operated by Tom Calderon. As part of their bribery scheme, Ron Calderon also hired another undercover agent as a staffer in his district office at an annual salary of $45,105.
After the FBI searched Ron Calderon’s office at the California State Capitol in June 2013, both brothers were later indicted on multiple charges, including fraud, bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, and aiding in the filing of false tax returns. Following his indictment on February 21, 2014, Ron Calderon was suspended with pay for the last eight months of his term in office, which ended in November 2014.
Facing up to 106 years in prison, Tom Calderon agreed to plead guilty last week to one count of money laundering. Although federal prosecutors have agreed to seek a sentence of no more than 12 months, U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder could still sentence Tom Calderon to a maximum term of 20 years and $500,000 in fines.
Initially facing up to 396 years in federal prison for his 24-count indictment, Ron Calderon accepted a plea deal in which prosecutors are only seeking no more than 70 months in prison. Despite the fact that Ron Calderon agreed to plead guilty to one count of mail fraud and admitted committing nearly two dozen more crimes in his plea deal, Judge Snyder could still sentence the former corrupt politician up to the statutory maximum sentence of to 20 years in prison.