Former State Senator Ron Calderon Pleads Guilty to Mail Fraud

Calderon's brother, a former assemblyman, pleaded guilty to money laundering earlier this month.

Former State Sen. Ron Calderon pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a federal mail fraud charge, weeks after his brother, also a former lawmaker, admitted allowing bribe money earmarked for his sibling to be funneled through his firm.

Calderon admitted that he accepted tens of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for performing official acts as a legislator, according to his plea agreement.

The 58-year-old Montebello resident entered his plea to one count of mail fraud through the deprivation of honest services before U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder in downtown Los Angeles.

The agreement -- under which federal prosecutors promised not to seek a sentence of more than about six years in federal prison -- came several weeks before Calderon was scheduled to go on trial on charges contained in a 24-count indictment filed in 2014.

Snyder scheduled sentencing for Sept. 19.

"Cases such as this undermine the public's confidence in their public officials,'' U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker said outside court.

FBI Assistant Director in Charge Deirdre Fike added that the bureau "will not tolerate pay to play, bribery and corruption'' among politicians.

In the plea agreement, Calderon admits accepting bribe payments from the owner of a Long Beach hospital who wanted a law to remain in effect so he could continue to reap millions of dollars in illicit profits from a separate fraud scheme, and from undercover FBI agents who were posing as independent filmmakers who wanted changes to the state's Film Tax Credit program.

Calderon's elder brother, a former assemblyman who became a political consultant, pleaded guilty June 6 to a federal money laundering charge and will be sentenced Sept. 12.

Prosecutors have agreed to recommend a sentence of no more than a year in prison for Tom Calderon, 62, also of Montebello.

He admitted that he agreed to conceal bribe payments for his brother from the two undercover FBI agents by having the money go through his company, the Calderon Group. The payments were made "to conceal and disguise the fact that the money represented the proceeds of bribery,'' according to his plea agreement.

"The Calderon brothers shamelessly defrauded the citizens of California to their right to honest services through an illicit bribery scheme,'' said Anthony J. Orlando, IRS Criminal Investigation's acting special agent in charge. "IRS CI tirelessly untangled the web of fraudulent transactions that led to these corrupt individuals being held accountable for their actions.''

The Calderon brothers were indicted on two dozen counts, including wire fraud, mail fraud, honest services fraud, bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, and aiding in the filing of false tax returns.

Ron Calderon was accused of accepting $80,000 in bribes, as well as gourmet meals and golf outings, from the medical company owner and the undercover FBI agent. He was suspended from the state Senate in March 2014, and his term in office ended nine months later.

Tom Calderon represented his Montebello-area district in the California Assembly from 1998-2002.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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