Hiring a new legislative staff member
An FBI affidavit’s transcript contains this exchange between Ron Calderon and an undercover agent, who asked him to hire his supposed girlfriend – actually another undercover agent.
Ron Calderon: So. If you wanna give her a shot in the district, I will see what I can do.
Agent: Okay. Let me kind of spell it out.
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Agent: So, her modeling thing ...
Agent: ... isn’t working out the way she wanted it to.
Agent: She is a little discouraged.
Agent: And, it would mean, I think, a wonderful world to her if you talk to her on the 28th and were able to say, hey, we’d love to have you. Come in, work for us.
Calderon: Okay. All right.
Agent: She comes with, you know, issues.
Agent: It is not a big thing. But, if you are willing to take that on ...
Calderon: Every girl has issues.
Hiring Jessica Calderon
In the chronology the affidavit lays out, Ron Calderon asks from the start about finding a way to support his daughter Jessica, telling the agent that “any help you could do for my kids” is “diamonds.”
Jessica Calderon had been working as a line producer for the film American Gigolo 2, Ron Calderon told the agent. It would be a small-budget production, but the agent suggested the project could be made if the minimum film budget for winning film tax credits was lowered – a change Ron continually pushed for, communicating with the agent the entire time.
After the agent agreed to put Jessica on his payroll, doling out multiple $3,000 payments, he remained unequivocal about his reasons for hiring her.
“Me hiring Jessica was not about her talent, right?” he told Ron Calderon, according to a recording cited in the affidavit. “It was more about accommodating something you needed.” According to the affidavit, Calderon replied, “Right.”
The high cost of higher education
The transcript says that Calderon held multiple conversations with an undercover FBI agent about his need to pay for his children’s higher education.
“... All I need her to do is make enough money to pay for her – the rest of her schooling, which isn’t a lot ...” Calderon is quoted as saying, “and then buy her own insurance which is about four hundred, five hundred bucks a month ... if she could work two-three days a week for you and make, you know, um, twenty five hundred bucks a month ...”
At a meeting on Nov. 2, 2012, Calderon told the agent he needed $5,000 for a tuition payment for his son Zachary. He also noted that lawmakers’ pay would be reduced, the result of an action by the California Citizens Compensation Commission.
“This particular semester coming up for Zach, um, they raised the fees and my salary is going down in December another five percent ... I was gonna ask you one of two things. One, um, I need 5, I’m going to be short 5 ...”
He said one possibility was a loan from the agent, which he could pay back in March. The other was a direct payment from a $50,000 pot of money the agent said was available to him.
“Maybe,” the affidavit quotes Calderon as saying, “we can get a $5,000 check to Berklee College of Music and Zach just turns it in.”
The affidavit says that ultimately the agent gave Calderon a $5,000 check with the payee portion left blank.
A sealed document slips out
Among the many unanswered questions in the developing Ron Calderon corruption investigation: Just how did the media get hold of an FBI affidavit that lays out the details of the case?
James J. Wedick, a former FBI special agent who led another Capitol uncover sting in the 1990s, attributed it to carelessness.
“I find it hard to believe that an FBI agent would give someone that document,” said Wedick, who lives in Gold River and was interviewed for the Calderon story that Al Jazeera America broke on Wednesday.
The 124-page document was filed with the court under seal to obtain a search warrant for the raid on Calderon’s offices in June. But the Qatar-based news network published a redacted version online. It’s a treasure trove of detailed allegations that the Democratic state senator from Montebello sold his position and influence for money and favors.
But it probably wasn’t leaked, Wedick said. More likely, a copy was accidentally left where someone found it.
“I guess you could say it’s possible the document was leaked,” he said. “but I would doubt that somebody would purposely take that document and release it.”
Wedick recalled that when he headed up the “shrimpscam” undercover sting in the late 1980s that snagged 12 public officials using a phony shrimp business to expose corruption, that he carefully guarded his investigative documents. Wedick routinely summarized reports and parceled out pages, he said, with only information his agents needed for their particular part of the probe.
“I never thought that anyone would leak the documents,” he said, “but I worried they might accidentally leave them somewhere.”
But if the document wasn’t leaked, why was it redacted?
“Al Jazeera’s lawyers did that,” Wedick said, out of concern that leaving certain portions untouched would leave the network open to a lawsuit.
The FBI has said it will investigate the source of the leak.
– Bee Capitol Bureau