Democrat Ron Calderon, 56, has agreed to turn himself in on Monday
to face two dozen counts of bribery, fraud, money laundering and
other charges, U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte said at a news conference
to announce the charges.
"Senator Calderon is accused of accepting tens of thousands of
dollars in bribes and using the powers of his elected office to
enrich himself and his brother Tom, rather than for the benefit of
the public he was sworn to serve," Birotte said.
State senate leader Darrell Steinberg called on Calderon, a veteran
legislator and member of a political dynasty going back several
decades in California, to resign or take a leave of absence.
"At a minimum, he should take a complete leave of absence until the
criminal proceedings are finished," Steinberg said. "If he does not
resign, or take that leave of absence voluntarily, the Senate will
seek to suspend him."
Phone calls made to Ron Calderon's offices in the Los Angeles area
and in Sacramento were not answered on Friday.
According to a 28-page indictment handed down in U.S. District Court
in Los Angeles on Thursday, 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.
Prosecutors say the lawmaker accepted bribes from Long Beach,
California, 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.
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.
Drobot has agreed to plead guilty to separate federal charges and is
cooperating in the case against the Calderon brothers, prosecutors
BRIBE FOR BACKING FILM TAX CREDITS
Ron 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
Both Calderons are accused of laundering the bribe
money by funneling it through Tom Calderon's consulting firm,
Californians for Diversity.
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Tom Calderon, 59, pleaded not guilty during a brief hearing in U.S.
District Court in Los Angeles on Friday. His defense attorney,
Shepard Kopp, said that he "categorically denies" the charges
"This is direct payback by the government for Ron Calderon refusing
to wear a wire and cooperate with the government's investigation,"
Kopp said. He declined to elaborate.
In June, FBI agents raided the Sacramento offices of the senator and
the California legislature's Latino Caucus, where he was a member of
the executive board.
At the time, high-profile Los Angeles attorney Mark Geragos told the
Sacramento Bee newspaper that prosecutors had no case against
Calderon and should be "ashamed of themselves" because, he believed,
they had leaked word of the raid to the media.
Geragos could not be reached for comment on Friday and his office
declined to say if he was still representing Calderon.
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
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb and Dana Feldman; editing by Cynthia
Johnston, G. Crosse, David Gregorio and Mohammad Zargham)
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