A week after his brother Tom Calderon copped a plea deal with federal prosecutors, former state senator Ronald Calderon followed suit, pleading guilty to one count of mail fraud and admitting he took tens of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for political favors.
Calderon’s guilty plea came after he was tied to bribes from former Long Beach hospital administrator Michael D. Drobot, the mastermind behind a nearly $600 million insurance scam. In the plea deal, Calderon admitted he took money from Drobot in exchange for keeping in place a law that allowed the medical consortium operator to reap massive profits off spinal surgery procedures performed at clinics he controlled. Calderon also admitted to accepting money from FBI agents who posed as producers and wanted the California film tax credit program expanded.
“Public officials who engage in corrupt behavior threaten the basic fabric of our democracy,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “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.”
Ron’s attorney Mark Geragos declined to comment.
Calderon and his brother Tom, a former state assemblyman who pleaded guilty to helping conceal the bribes last week, were part of a political dynasty from Montebello who spent decades wielding political power both in Los Angeles and at the State Capital in Sacramento. Little of that power remains, with both brothers likely headed towards substantial prison sentences. While the Calderon’s eldest brother Charles – a former state senate president – was not tied to the scheme, he lost a judicial election in Los Angeles shortly after his brothers were indicted in 2014 and has avoided the political spotlight since.
Instead of facing the potential for hundreds of years in prison for dozens of counts of bribery, money laundering, fraud, and tax charges, plea documents show prosecutors agreed to not seek more than a 70 month sentence for Ron and 12 months for Tom. The plea deals, signed by Ron and Tom, guarantee the pair won’t wind up on the wrong end of a jury verdict in a trial that was scheduled for next month.
The charges stemmed from the massive workers compensation insurance scandal that has garnered nine guilty pleas on behalf of defendants tied to Drobot, the former head of the Pacific Hospital of Long Beach. Drobot pleaded guilty in 2014 to fraud charges admitting he ripped of insurers including the State Compensation Insurance Fund for some $580 million. A civil RICO case is currently playing out in Orange County as the state workers fund attempts to recoup money from Drobot and doctors he bribed to send patients to spinal surgery centers he controlled.