Former state Sen. Ronald Calderon of Montebello, before his indictment on federal bribery and corruption charges in 2014, set up meetings with top legislative leaders to discuss bills affecting the people who prosecutors alleged paid him off, Senate records released Tuesday show.
Federal prosecutors have said the lawmakers Calderon met with, including current Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and former Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), are not targets of the investigation.
Calderon's legislative calendars could corroborate allegations in the federal indictment that Calderon, a Democrat, was arranging meetings with fellow lawmakers while allegedly receiving bribes.
Calderon is accused of accepting $88,000 from a medical company owner and an undercover federal agent posing as a film producer in exchange for influence on legislation. Former Assemblyman Thomas Calderon, Ronald's brother, is charged with money laundering. They face a trial on March 1, 2016, and both have pleaded not guilty.
Calderon’s official calendar was released by the Senate on Tuesday after a Superior Court judge overruled legislative officials, who had claimed the records were not public documents in part because their release could pose a security risk.
Also released were the calendars of former state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who was charged in a separate federal indictment in March 2014. Yee is accused of accepting campaign donations in return for favors and offering to arrange the sale of machine guns and shoulder-fired missiles to an undercover FBI agent posing as a mob figure.
The federal indictment against Calderon alleges that on Oct. 25, 2012, he met with another senator referred to as ‘Senator B,” to discuss expanding eligibility for a state tax credit for independent films.
Calderon’s calendar shows that, on that day, his schedule included a dinner at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse restaurant in downtown Los Angeles with De León and “Rocky Patel,” the name used by an undercover FBI agent who was posing as a film executive.
The calendar does not say what the meeting with De León was about, and a representative of the senator did not respond Tuesday to the question of whether such a meeting took place.
De León has produced a letter from prosecutors indicating that he was a witness in the case, not a target.
“There’s nothing new here,” said Claire Conlon, a spokeswoman for De León, on Tuesday. “As we’ve restated multiple times over the last two years, Senator De León has and will continue to readily and fully cooperate in this case – and nothing regarding his role has changed.”
The federal indictment also alleges that on June 12, 2012, Calderon and Pacific Hospital’s then-owner, Michael Drobot, met with another lawmaker, referred to as “Senator C,” to discuss the negative effect that legislation proposed by that lawmaker would have on Drobot’s company.
Calderon’s calendar for that day shows his schedule included a meeting with Drobot, Tom Calderon and then-Sen. Lieu “to discuss Lieu’s Spinal Implant Reimbursement legislation.” Drobot’s medical center preformed spinal implants, and he also owned companies that provided the medical devices for the procedure.
Lieu could not immediately be reached for comment. He told The Times previously that he had been interviewed by federal investigators and that he was assured he was not their target.
The indictment also said that Calderon wrote to ‘Senator B’ in March 2011 to discuss the importance of legislation on spinal surgery.
An FBI affidavit mentioned legislation by Lieu and Kevin De León that would have limited reimbursements for hardware and implants used in spinal surgery, procedures that according to some estimates cost the state's workers' compensation system tens of millions of dollars.
The legislation stalled. A more comprehensive measure passed in August 2012 and limited how spinal implants were reimbursed through the system.
The indictment alleges that Drobot paid Ronald Calderon about $28,000 in bribes in 2011 and 2012, including $18,000 concealed as checks to Calderon's son Zachary for work on a summer job with Drobot’s firm.
Attorneys for Drobot and Ronald Calderon could not be reached for comment.
The indictment alleges that Ronald Calderon met with “Senator C” on April 24, 2013, “to discuss legislation that would create a special tax credit for independent filmmakers," but the Senate did not grant the The Times request for Calderon’s calendar for that day.
Lieu said last year, “I didn't know what a small-production tax credit was until he [Calderon] came to me.” The tax credit legislation was not enacted.
The calendars also show other meetings between Ronald Calderon and Patel, the FBI agent, including a two-hour session on Feb. 24, 2012, at the Palm restaurant that was also attended by Calderon staffer Mario Beltran. On Sept. 10, 2012, Calderon was scheduled to meet Patel in the evening at the Dal Rae Restaurant in Pico Rivera.
Yee’s calendars also show him meeting frequently with undercover FBI agents who the indictment later said made payments to him as part of a sting operation.