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State Sen. Ron Calderon took $100,000 in bribes, authorities allege

Laws and LegislationRon CalderonFBICrime, Law and Justice

State Sen. Ron Calderon has been indicted in a sweeping corruption case, accused of taking about $100,000 in bribes. 

Federal authorities allege that Calderon (D-Montebello) took the bribes from a Long Beach hospital official as well as people connected to what he believed was a Hollywood studio. In fact, the studio was an FBI front and the business associates were FBI agents.

Authorities claim Calderon received cash bribes, trips and dinners in exchange for "official acts."

Calderon, 56, faces 24 counts of fraud, wire fraud, honest services fraud, bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and aiding in the filing of false tax returns.

GRAPHIC: Calderon family connections

"Public corruption is a betrayal of the public trust that threatens the integrity of our democratic institutions," U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte said at a news conference Friday. 

Calderon's brother, Thomas, faces charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering. Thomas Calderon is a former assemblyman who most recently served as a consultant for the Central Basin Water District.

Authorities allege that Ronald Calderon took bribes from Michael Drobot, the former owner of Pacific Hospital in Long Beach. 

According to a U.S. attorney's office statement, "Drobot bribed Ron Calderon by hiring Calderon’s college-age son to work as a file clerk at his company and paying him approximately $30,000 over the course of three summers. Ron Calderon’s son showed up for only about 15 days of work each summer, according to the indictment, which also accused Ron Calderon of accepting plane trips, golf outings and expensive dinners from Drobot. Ron Calderon allegedly arranged meetings between Drobot and other public officials and helped Drobot attempt to persuade the other legislators" to help with bills favorable to his business.

Drobot has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and paying illegal kickbacks, according to the U.S. attorney.

Drobot, according to the federal statement, "ran a scheme in which he billed workers’ compensation insurers hundreds of millions of dollars for spinal surgeries performed on patients who had been referred by dozens of doctors, chiropractors and others who were paid illegal kickbacks. For referrals for spinal surgeries, Drobot typically paid a kickback of $15,000 per lumbar fusion surgery and $10,000 per cervical fusion surgery. Some of the patients lived as much as hundreds of miles away from Pacific Hospital, and closer to other qualified medical facilities. The patients were not informed that the medical professionals had been offered kickbacks to induce them to refer the surgeries to Pacific Hospital."

“Corruption victimizes each and every one of us. The indictment alleges Mr. Calderon traded influence for cash in the 30th District and beyond," Bill Lewis, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said in a statement. "In addition to robbing us of taxpayer money, corrupt practices rob us of trust in government.”

The Calderon brothers have previously denied any wrongdoing.

In court documents sent to The Times, FBI agents said they confronted Ronald Calderon during a meeting in Las Vegas in May 2012, after which he agreed to wear a "wire" as part of the investigation.

The indictments were handed down Thursday.

[For the record, 12:10 p.m. Feb. 24: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that Thomas Calderon faces charges of fraud, wire fraud, honest services fraud, bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and aiding in the filing of false tax returns. He is facing multiple counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering].

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richard.winton@latimes.com

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Laws and LegislationRon CalderonFBICrime, Law and Justice
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