State Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), right, listens to a question from a reporter at the end of his brief news conference at the Capitol in June. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP / June 10, 2013)SACRAMENTO -- State Sen. Ronald Calderon allegedly accepted more than $60,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents during an elaborate sting operation, according to a report by the Al Jazeera television network, which cited a sealed federal affidavit.
The bribes were paid in exchange for Calderon seeking a change in tax credits available to the film industry and for hiring on the state payroll a woman purported to be the undercover agent's girlfriend, but who was herself an undercover agent, according to the affidavit, which the television network released.
The document, filed in support of a search warrant served in June of Calderon’s Capitol office, said the agent believed Calderon had also engaged in conspiracy, mail fraud and extortion under color of official authority, and indicated that wiretaps were used to collect evidence.
Calderon has not been charged with any crime.
“There is probable cause to believe that Ronald Calderon, a California state senator, has committed the subject offenses by accepting approximately $60,000 in bribes from an undercover FBI agent," ('the UC') the affidavit says, “in exchange for (1) directly enriching the UC’s business by supporting legislation in the California Senate that would lower the amount of money independent filmmakers have to spend on a film’s budget in order to qualify for a California tax credit and (2) indirectly enriching the UC by hiring the UC’s purported girlfriend, UC-2, to a Senate staff position funded by the state of California.”
The affidavit says there is also probable cause to believe that Calderon “participated in a separate bribery scheme with Michael D. Drobot,” the chief executive officer of the Pacific Hospital of Long Beach, accepting $28,000 in bribes from Drobot in exchange for “supporting legislation that would delay or limit changes in California’s workers compensation laws….”
The document said a $25,000 bribe paid by the undercover agent to Ronald Calderon went through Californians for Diversity, a nonprofit formed by his brother, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon in 2008.
Ron Calderon told investigators that he and Tom Calderon “intend to use that money when Ronald Calderon is no longer in public office.”
The bribes, which began in Februry 2012, were from an undercover agent “posing as owner of a film studio in downtown Los Angeles that provides studio facilities to independent films and commercials,” the affidavit says.
The agent also made nine $3,000 payments to Ronald Calderon’s daughter, Jessica Calderon, who “has received these payments even though she has never done any work for the” undercover agent.
Mark Geragos, an attorney for Ronald Calderon, challenged the television report.
“The only illegal act that is being committed is either by the government or by Al Jazeera,” Geragos said. “The only illegal act I see is commited either by somebody who released a sealed affidavit or somebody who claims they got a sealed affidavit. Releasing a sealed affidavit is a federal crime.”
Asked about the allegations in the report: “My guess is, it is fabricated and untrue.”