FBI officials can neither confirm nor deny whether a California state senator whose offices were raided over the summer allegedly accepted $60,000 in bribes from undercover federal agents, as described in a 125-page sealed FBI affidavit that Al Jazeera America claims to have obtained and cites in a report.
The affidavit explains the FBI's alleged "probable cause to believe" that Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, was involved in bribery schemes including:
- offering to halt workers' compensation laws to benefit a Southern California hospital executive;
- offering a state-funded job in the Senate to an undercover agent;
- and offering to support legislation that would help independent film studios get tax credits.
"This was a sealed affidavit. The only crime here is by the government or by Al Jazeera," Mark Geragos, Calderon's attorney, told NBC4. "You cannot release a sealed affidavit."
Geragos denied the allegations in the report, telling the Los Angeles Times, "My guess is, it is fabricated and untrue.”
FBI officials told NBC4 they will not confirm or deny the details cited in Al Jazeera America's report.
The agency on Thursday issued a statement saying it would be "inappropriate to comment on pending investigations, or in the case of a sealed search warrant, to even comment on the nature of an investigation."
"That said, I realize that many of you have questioned the suspected unauthorized disclosure of a sealed court document. In response, I can confirm for you that this matter has been referred to the appropriate authorities at the Department of Justice for investigation," the agency said.
The first alleged bribery scheme in the document states that Calderon accepted the payments from an undercover agent who posed as the owner of a downtown Los Angeles film studio that provides facilities to independent films and commercials.
The undercover agent made some of the alleged payments to Calderon's daughter, the document states.
Calderon also told the agent that making his daughter an independent contractor for the studio would "keep it legit," according to the affidavit.
In exchange for the money and his daughter's employment, Calderon would support California legislation that would lower the amount of money independent filmmakers must spend to qualify for tax credits, the affidavit states.
In the second alleged scheme, Calderon allegedly offered to hire the undercover agent’s "girlfriend" (also an undercover agent) to work in a state-funded Senate staff position, according to the document. The woman told Calderon she did not take the position because she "ended her relationship" with the undercover agent.
The offer to hire the "girlfriend" was paid out to Calderon in a $5,000 payment toward college tuition for Calderon’s son; and a $25,000 payment to Californians for Diversity, a state corporation controlled by Calderon’s brother, Thomas, the document states.
The third alleged scheme listed in the affidavit involved Michael D. Drobot, CEO of Pacific Hospital of Long Beach, who paid out thousands of dollars in exchange for Ron Calderon supporting legislation that would delay changes in workers’ compensation laws regarding the amount of money medical care providers are reimbursed for spinal surgeries, the document states.
Some of the bribes were disguised as payments to Calderon's son in exchange for helping move spinal surgery legislation, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit also states that Drobot paid $10,000 a month for Thomas to act as a consultant in connection with the spinal surgery legislation.
The document defends the state government’s case against Calderon in order to justify the raid of his offices earlier this year.
When his offices were searched in June, indications emerged that the probe may have been connected to legislation Calderon carried for a water district which employed Thomas as a consultant.
Two individuals, a businessman and an elected official, said in June they were interviewed by the FBI about Calderon’s connections to the Central Basin Municipal Water District.
In 2009, the state's political watchdog agency, the Fair Political Practices Commission, closed an investigation into Calderon's three Assembly campaign committees without sanctions.
The commission opened an investigation after receiving allegations that Calderon had used campaign money for personal purposes while seeking re-election to the Assembly in 2003 and 2004, according to agency records. A letter to Calderon said the agency found nothing on its face to show the expenses were made for "anything other than a political, legislative or governmental purpose."
Calderon terminated his legal defense fund in 2009.
The lawmaker is part of a powerful Southern California political dynasty. His two brothers served in the state Legislature and his nephew, Ian Calderon, was elected to the Assembly last year.
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