Former California state Sen. Ronald Calderon has agreed to plead guilty to having accepted $60,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as independent filmmakers who wanted changes to California’s film incentives program.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Calderon agreed to support an expansion of a state law that gave tax credits to studios that produced independent films in California. The Film Tax Credit applied to productions of at least $1 million, but, in exchange for bribes, Ron Calderon agreed to support new legislation to reduce this threshold to $750,000, according to the plea agreement.
The bribes included $3,000 monthly payments to his daughter for services she never provided, a $5,000 payment towards his son’s college tuition, and a $25,000 payment Californians for Diversity, a non-profit entity that Calderon and his brother, former state assemblyman Thomas Calderon, used to improperly pay themselves. Thomas Calderon pleaded guilty last Monday to a federal money laundering charge for allowing bribe money earmarked for his brother to be funneled through his firm.
Despite the bribes, the law was never changed.
“My office will not tolerate pay-to-play corruption by public officials and their associates,” said Deirdre Fike, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office. “While in office, Ron Calderon and others profited handsomely when bribe money was accepted and laundered, and I’m gratified that he has chosen to take responsibility for his actions.”
As part of his plea agreement, federal prosecutors have agreed not to seek a sentence of more than 70 months in federal prison, also the judge in the case is not bound by any sentencing recommendation and could sentence Calderon to the statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.