Ex-assemblyman pleads guilty in ex-senator brother's case

AP News
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Posted: Jun 06, 2016 11:03 PM
Ex-assemblyman pleads guilty in ex-senator brother's case

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Former California Assemblyman Thomas Calderon pleaded guilty Monday to money laundering as part of a plea agreement in which he acknowledged concealing bribes that his brother, then-state Sen. Ron Calderon, accepted in exchange for supporting certain legislation.

Thomas Calderon pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. Though his conviction carries up to 20 years in prison, prosecutors are requesting that he get no more than one year when he's sentenced Sept. 12.

Calderon admitted to hiding bribes that his brother, former Democratic California Sen. Ron Calderon of Montebello, accepted in exchange for supporting legislation expanding tax credits for the film industry, according to the plea agreement. The legislation never passed.

The bribes came from an undercover FBI agent who posed as the owner of a Los Angeles movie studio.

Thomas Calderon deposited a $30,000 bribe from the undercover agent into a bank account belong to the consulting company he founded, according to the plea agreement. He then wrote a check for $9,000 from that bank account to Ron Calderon's daughter, the agreement says.

"(Thomas Calderon) conducted these financial transactions in order to conceal and disguise the fact that the money represented the proceeds of bribery," according to the plea agreement.

Thomas Calderon's attorney, Shepard Kopp, declined to comment. His client is not required to testify against Ronald Calderon, who has pleaded not guilty to bribery, fraud and money laundering. His trial is scheduled for next month.

Ronald Calderon's attorney, Mark Geragos, called Thomas Calderon's plea agreement a "sweetheart deal."

"It's obviously meant to pressure my client into pleading (guilty)," Geragos said, adding that it also eliminates his option to call Thomas Calderon to testify in favor of his brother.

"Unfortunately this is the way the U.S. system of justice works," Geragos said. "You are facing enormous consequences in terms of sentencing guidelines and the government makes you an offer that you can't refuse, so you will sing from their script in order to get your head out of the noose."

Ron Calderon also is charged with accepting bribes from a former hospital owner to preserve a state insurance law that the government says helped the owner maintain a long-running and lucrative health care fraud scheme. The law was later repealed.

Ron Calderon would face spending the rest of his life in prison if convicted of all the charges against him.