Cal­en­dars could hurt Calderon

The ex- state sen­a­tor’s leg­isla­tive sched­ule in­cluded meet­ings with key play­ers in the case against him.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Pa­trick McGreevy pa­trick. mcgreevy @ latimes. com Twit­ter:@ mc­greevy99

SACRA­MENTO — For­mer state Sen. Ron­ald S. Calderon of Mon­te­bello, be­fore his in­dict­ment on fed­eral bribery and cor­rup­tion charges last year, set up meet­ings with leg­isla­tive lead­ers to dis­cuss bills af­fect­ing the peo­ple who pros­e­cu­tors al­lege were pay­ing him off, Se­nate records show.

Calderon’s leg­isla­tive cal­en­dars, re­leased Tues­day, could cor­rob­o­rate al­le­ga­tions in the fed­eral in­dict­ment that the Demo­crat was ar­rang­ing meet­ings with fel­low law­mak­ers and re­ceiv­ing bribes.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors have said the law­mak­ers Calderon met with, in­clud­ing cur­rent state Se­nate Pres­i­dent Pro Tem Kevin de León ( D-Los An­ge­les) and for­mer state Sen. Ted Lieu ( D- Tor­rance), who is now a con­gress­man, are not tar­gets of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Calderon is ac­cused of ac­cept­ing $ 88,000 froma med­i­cal com­pany owner and an un­der­cover fed­eral agent pos­ing as a film pro­ducer in ex­change for in­flu­ence on leg­is­la­tion. For­mer Assem­bly­man Thomas Calderon, his brother, is charged with money laun­der­ing. They face a trial on March 1, 2016; both have pleaded not guilty.

Calderon’s of­fi­cial cal­en­dar was re­leased by the state Se­nate af­ter a Su­pe­rior Court judge over­ruled leg­isla­tive of­fi­cials’ claim that the records were not public doc­u­ments in part be­cause their re­lease could pose a se­cu­rity risk. The or­der was is­sued af­ter a law suit toun seal the records was filed by the Bay Area News Group and the Los An­ge­les News Group.

The in­dict­ment against Calderon al­leges that on Oct. 25, 2012, he met with another sen­a­tor, re­ferred to as “Sen­a­tor B,” to dis­cuss ex­pand­ing el­i­gi­bil­ity for a state tax credit for in­de­pen­dent films.

Calderon’s cal­en­dar shows that his sched­ule that day in­cluded a din­ner at Flem­ing’s res­tau­rant in down­town Los An­ge­les with De León and “Rocky Pa­tel,” the name used by an un­der­cover FBI agent who was pos­ing as a film ex­ec­u­tive.

The cal­en­dar does not say what the meet­ing was about, and De León did not re­spond Tues­day to the ques­tion of whether such a meet­ing took place. De León pre­vi­ously pro­duced a let­ter from pros­e­cu­tors in­di­cat­ing that he was a wit­ness in the case, not a tar­get.

“There’s noth­ing new here,” Claire Con­lon, a spokes­woman for De León, said ina state­ment Tues­day. “As we’ve re­stated mul­ti­ple times over the last twoyears, Sen. De León has and will con­tinue to read­ily and fully co­op­er­ate in this case— and noth­ing re­gard­ing his role has changed.”

An at­tor­ney for for­mer Sen. Calderon could not be reached for com­ment.

The fed­eral in­dict­ment also al­leges that on June 12, 2012, Calderon and Pa­cific Hos­pi­tal’s then- owner, Michael Drobot, met with another law­maker, re­ferred to as “Sen­a­tor C,” to dis­cuss the neg­a­tive im­pact that leg­is­la­tion pro­posed by that law­maker would have on Drobot’s com­pany.

Calderon’s cal­en­dar for that day shows his sched­ule in­cluded a meet­ing with Drobot, Thomas Calderon and then- Sen. Lieu “to dis­cuss Lieu’s Spinal Im­plant Re­im­burse­ment leg­is­la­tion.” Drobot’s med­i­cal cen­ter pre­formed spinal im­plants, and he also owned com­pa­nies that pro­vided the med­i­cal de­vices for the pro­ce­dure.

Lieu could not im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment. He told The Times pre­vi­ously that he had been in­ter­viewed by fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors and that he was as­sured he was not their tar­get.

The in­dict­ment also said then- Sen. Calderon wrote to “Sen­a­tor B” in March 2011 to dis­cuss the im­por­tance of leg­is­la­tion on spinal surgery.

An FBI af­fi­davit men­tioned leg­is­la­tion by Lieu and De León that would have lim­ited re­im­burse­ments for hard­ware and im­plants used in spinal surgery, pro­ce­dures that ac­cord­ing to some es­ti­mates cost the state’s work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion sys­tem tens of mil­lions of dol­lars.

The leg­is­la­tion stalled. A more com­pre­hen­sive mea­sure passed in Au­gust 2012 and lim­ited how spinal im­plants were re­im­bursed through the sys­tem.

The in­dict­ment al­leges that Drobot paid Calderon about $ 28,000 in bribes in 2011 and 2012, in­clud­ing $ 18,000 con­cealed as checks to Calderon’s son Zachary for work on a sum­mer job with Drobot’s firm.

An at­tor­ney for Drobot could not be reached for com­ment.

The in­dict­ment al­leges that Calderon met with “Sen­a­tor C” on April 24, 2013, “to dis­cuss leg­is­la­tion that would cre­ate a spe­cial tax credit for in­de­pen­dent film­mak­ers, but the Se­nate did not grant The Times’ re­quest for Calderon’s sched­ule for that day.

Lieu said last year, “I didn’t know what a small pro­duc­tion tax credit was un­til [ Calderon] came to me.” The tax credit leg­is­la­tion was not en­acted.

The cal­en­dars also show other meet­ings be­tween Calderon and Pa­tel, the FBI agent, in­clud­ing a two- hour ses­sion on Feb. 24, 2012, at the Palm res­tau­rant that was also at­tended by Calderon staffer Mario Bel­tran. On Sept. 10, 2012, Calderon was sched­uled to meet Pa­tel in the evening at the Dal Rae Res­tau­rant in Pico Rivera.

Rich Pe­dron­celli AP

RON­ALD CALDERON, aMon­te­bello Demo­crat charged with cor­rup­tion, goes on trial next March.

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