Capitol Alert

Ex-California lawmaker Tom Calderon pleads guilty to money laundering

California State Sen. Ron Calderon, right, comforts his brother former state Assemblyman Tom Calderon at a memorial service for Tom’s wife Marcella Calderon at the Montebello Applied Technology Center High School in Montebello on January 14, 2012.
California State Sen. Ron Calderon, right, comforts his brother former state Assemblyman Tom Calderon at a memorial service for Tom’s wife Marcella Calderon at the Montebello Applied Technology Center High School in Montebello on January 14, 2012. Los Angeles Times

Former Democratic Assemblyman Tom Calderon on Monday pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering in the corruption case involving him and his brother, former state Sen. Ron Calderon.

In the court filing, Tom Calderon implicated his brother, saying the two men concealed bribe money Ron Calderon was receiving from two undercover agents working for the FBI.

In exchange, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, which was prosecuting the case, will move to dismiss six other money laundering counts and seek no more than 12 months in prison for Tom Calderon, according to the filing. Sentencing is set for Sept. 12.

Tom Calderon will also not be required testify against his brother, who awaits trial on accusations of misconduct including trading official favors in return for campaign contributions.

“I'm satisfied with the outcome of this long-running case,” Shepard Kopp, Tom Calderon’s attorney, said.

Ron Calderon still faces 24 counts, including bribery, money laundering and tax fraud, to which he pleaded not guilty. His trial has been delayed for nearly two years and is currently scheduled to begin in July.

A federal grand jury in 2014 indicted Ron Calderon on charges he took $88,000 in bribes from a hospital executive and an FBI agent posing as a movie studio executive.

In one alleged pay-to-play legislative transaction, prosecutors accused Calderon of accepting bribes from a former hospital CEO seeking to preserve a workers’ compensation rule allowing him to charge additional money for spinal surgeries. Michael Drobot previously pleaded guilty to inflating the cost of such procedures.

In another case, prosecutors said an undercover FBI agent posing as a film executive approached Calderon about altering the state’s film tax credit. According to the indictment, Calderon accepted thousands of dollars in payments to his daughter.

Ron Calderon was suspended with pay before terming out of the Legislature.

In the filing on Monday, Tom Calderon agreed that he allowed a $30,000 bribe to be funneled through the Calderon Group in exchange for Ron Calderon’s support in lowering the California film tax credit threshold from $1 million to $750,000.

He also agreed to the accusation that he wrote a $9,000 check from the Calderon Group’s bank account to Ron Calderon’s daughter.

Donald Heller, a Sacramento defense attorney, said Tom Calderon’s lawyer “did an excellent job in negotiating this plea agreement.”

He calculated a guideline sentence of 15 to 21 months for the charge Tom Calderon pleaded guilty to, and the possibility of much more prison time if he had gone to trial on all counts.

“He’s getting a sweet deal,” Heller said.

Heller, who represented lobbyist Clayton Jackson during a massive corruption scandal in the early 1990s that ensnared several members of the Legislature, said he did not want to speculate on whether Tom Calderon’s plea agreement meant Ron Calderon would also be accepting one.

But, Heller added, “it appears that he would be throwing his brother under the bus unless there’s something else coming down the road.”

Ron Calderon’s lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

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