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Calderons are longtime targets of federal agents, affidavit says

Newport Beach man wrote $1-million check to Tom Calderon, according to an FBI agent's writing in an affidavit.

October 31, 2013|By Chris Megerian

SACRAMENTO -- The Federal Bureau of Investigation was targeting Sen. Ron Calderon for years before allegedly catching him taking bribes during a sting operation, according to an affidavit uncovered by Al Jazeera.

An agent wrote in the document that an investigation into the Montebello Democrat and his brothers, Tom and Charles, began in 2007.

The genesis of the corruption investigation, the agent wrote, was a $1-million check written to Tom Calderon by Michael Drobot, a Newport Beach resident who runs Pacific Hospital of Long Beach.

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Because of "this exceptionally large and unusual payment," authorities suspected that Tom Calderon was "using his brothers' political influence to favor Drobot in return for monetary compensation, that is, a bribe," the agent wrote. 

At that point, Tom had left the Legislature, Charles was a state assemblyman, and Ron was a state senator.

But federal agents' attempts to catch the Calderons in wrongdoing were unsuccessful, according to the affidavit. Undercover agents posed as venture capitalists and told Ron and Tom that "they were interested in having legislation introduced in the California Senate that would be financially beneficial."

Neither brother solicited or accepted a bribe, the affidavit says; it's unclear whether a bribe was offered.

Ron Calderon, whose spending habits have long raised red flags in the Capitol, would continue to be a tempting target for federal authorities. 

A separate probe was launched in Los Angeles in October 2011, with two different public officials as the target, the affidavit says. During the course of the investigation, an undercover agent whopresented himself as "Rocky Patel," a movie studio owner, crossed paths with Ron.

"On April 9, 2012, FBI Los Angeles added Ronald Calderon as a subject of its undercover investigation," the agent wrote. 

The affidavit, which was filed in court and sealed in May, was used to support a search of Ron's office in the Capitol in June.

The senator is suspected of receiving $60,000 in bribes from the undercover agent as part of a sting operation. He's also suspected of taking $28,000 from Drobot, the hospital executive.

The senator's lawyer, Mark Geragos, said his client has done nothing wrong.

Twitter: @chrismegerian

Megerian writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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