Ex-California lawmaker to plead guilty in corruption case: prosecutors

LOS ANGELES A former California state senator accused of taking tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from a businessman and from undercover FBI agents has agreed to plead guilty to one count of mail fraud, federal prosecutors said on Monday.

Ronald Calderon, a Democrat who was indicted in February 2014 on two dozen counts of bribery, fraud, money laundering and other charges, will enter his guilty plea this week, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles said.

According to the plea agreement, prosecutors have agreed not to ask for a sentence of more than 70 months, though the statutory maximum for the charge is 20 years.

Calderon’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

His brother, former lawmaker Thomas Calderon pleaded guilty last week to a federal money laundering charge in connection with the case.

The Calderon brothers were members of a political dynasty going back several decades in California before they were ensnared in the federal investigation.

“Public officials who engage in corrupt behavior threaten the basic fabric of our democracy,” U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker said in a written statement announcing Ronald Calderon’s plea agreement.

“The Calderons have acknowledged their roles in a bribery scheme in which money for them and their families alone was driving legislation that would have benefited only a few individuals,” Decker said.

The 2014 indictment of Ronald Calderon accused him of taking bribes from Long Beach, California hospital owner Michael Drobot to preserve a legislative loophole that allowed Drobot to defraud the state’s healthcare system out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Calderon was also charged with accepting money from undercover FBI agents who he thought worked for an independent Hollywood movie studio in exchange for supporting an expansion of film tax credits in California.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Alan Crosby)

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