California State Sen. Ron Calderon is facing federal charges in a wide-ranging corruption case that includes allegedly accepting bribes from FBI agents posing as movie executives. Authorities today filed a 24-count criminal indictment against the veteran politician that also includes allegations of money laundering and tax fraud. Among the charges is that Calderon, D-Montebello, whose office was raided by the FBI in the summer, took tens of thousands of dollars from undercover agents to make changes to the state’s $100 million Film and TV tax credit program. Authorities say he agreed in early 2012 to help an agent posing as the owner of a downtown LA film studio to lower from $1 million to $750,000 the budget required as a minimum under the program to qualify for credits. While that never ended up part of the latest tax credit legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on September 30, 2012, Calderon allegedly assured the undercover agents he would work to get the minimum reduced in the 2013 legislative session. No such change has occurred. The senator also is said to have taken $60,000 in bribes starting in February 2012 from the fake studio owner. And Calderon’s daughter supposedly was paid $27,000 to work for the fake studio, though she never put in a day.
The state Senate removed Calderon from the California Film Commission on November 1, a day after the allegations first surfaced in a leaked FBI affidavit. “If for no other reason, the appearance of impropriety dictates that the senator no longer sit on that commission,” President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said at the time. He added that regardless of whether the claims turn out to be true, he doubted that one person could change the state’s film and TV tax credit program the way Calderon is said to have told an undercover FBI agent he could. He also told reporters in November that dropping the minimum budget requirements for the program never was brought up in committee talks.
During a news conference today in Los Angeles, U.S Attorney André Birotte Jr. said Calderon faces a maximum sentence of 400 years in prison if convicted on all charges. The politician is expected to surrender to authorities on Monday.