California Senator Pleads Guilty For Corruption and Racketeering


Former state Sen. Ron Calderon pleads guilty in federal corruption case

Matt Hamilton

Former state Sen. Ron Calderon formally pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal corruption charge after he admitted to accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from undercover FBI agents and a hospital executive.

Calderon, who represented the 30th Senate district from 2006 to 2014, appeared before U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder and entered the guilty plea to a count of mail fraud.

The plea agreement was announced shortly after Calderon’s brother Tom Calderon, a former state assemblyman, pleaded guilty to a charge of money laundering. Prosecutors had contended that Tom Calderon helped hide the bribes that his brother sought. 

In his plea agreement filed this month in federal court, Ron Calderon admitted to a damning narrative of allegations that he sought and received bribes for himself and a payment for his son’s college tuition. 

The Montebello resident said that he had the owner of a Long Beach hospital, Michael Drobot, employ his son as a summer intern in exchange for advocating for legislation that would benefit Drobot and his companies. Drobot later pleaded guilty to running a 15-year spinal surgery kickback scheme, part of a wide-ranging medical fraud.

Calderon also admitted that he agreed to advocate for a law that would give a more favorable tax break to independent film producers. Calderon thought he made the agreement to advocate for the legislation on behalf of film executives, but the men were undercover FBI agents. 

In exchange, Calderon had the undercover FBI agents hire his daughter for a job and accepted trips to Las Vegas from the faux film executives that were worth about $12,000. He also had the executives send a $25,000 check to Californians for Diversity, an entity that Tom Calderon and his brother used to pay themselves, according to court papers.

“While in office, Ron Calderon and others profited handsomely when bribe money was accepted and laundered, and I’m gratified that he has chosen to take responsibility for his actions,” said Deirdre Fike, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, in a statement this month.

Under the terms of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to request that Snyder sentence Calderon to no more than 70 months behind bars, a prison term on the low end of federal sentencing guidelines. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 

Calderon is scheduled to be sentenced by Snyder on Sept. 19.