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Former legislator receives 10-month sentence

LOS ANGELES — Former Montebello-area Assemblyman Tom Calderon was sentenced Sept. 12 to a 10-month split sentence of federal prison and electronic monitoring for helping conceal bribe money his brother, former Democratic state Sen. Ron Calderon, received during an FBI sting.

In imposing the sentence, U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder said she took into account Tom Calderon’s health problems that resulted in recent triple bypass surgery.

“I just want to be able to survive this,” Tom Calderon, 62, told the court. He was ordered to self-surrender to begin serving his prison time on Oct. 27.

The ex-lawmaker and former Montebello school board member pleaded guilty in June to a money laundering count in which he admitted allowing $30,000 from an undercover agent to be funneled through his Calderon Group as payment for his younger brother to support lowering the threshold for California’s film tax credit from $1 million to $750,000.

He deposited the $30,000 into the company’s bank account and then wrote a check for $9,000 to his brother’s daughter, according to prosecutors.

In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped six remaining money laundering counts.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mack Jenkins said that Tom Calderon was a “self-made politician” who left the legislature in 2002 and “capitalized on his connections” during the ensuing years as a political consultant.

Although there was a period when he was “doing good” for the Montebello community, Jenkins said, “the Calderon legacy is now mired in corruption.”

The judge sentenced the former consultant to a year-and-a-day in custody, a minimum federal felony sentence which actually yields a 10-month term if the defendant behaves while in custody. Tom Calderon was also ordered to complete 100 hours of community service during his year of supervised release.

Snyder said such public corruption cases give the public “another reason to question the system.”

The ex-legislator’s attorney, Shepard Kopp, told the court that his client had once “done a lot of good — not only for the community but the state.”

Kopp described Tom Calderon as a “prime-mover” who was instrumental in the economic development of the San Gabriel Valley.

“He genuinely wanted to improve the lives” of the residents of Montebello, the defense attorney said.

In papers filed with the court, Jenkins wrote that the Calderon brothers are representative of a climate “where waves of dark money infect politics and flood the worlds of many politicians.”

Tom Calderon’s sentence “should be part of disrupting that comfortable climate of corruption and a step towards restoring public trust in the democratic system,” according to the document.

The brothers were indicted by a Los Angeles federal grand jury in February 2014.

Ron Calderon, the target of the investigation, was charged with two-dozen felony counts alleging wire fraud, mail fraud, honest services fraud, bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, and aiding in the filing of false tax returns.

The former state senator subsequently pleaded guilty to a mail fraud charge, admitting that he accepted tens of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for performing official acts as a legislator, according to his plea agreement.

Prosecutors said Ron Calderon pocketed $88,000 in bribes, as well as gourmet meals and golf outings, from a medical company owner and an undercover FBI agent posing as a film executive. He was suspended from the state Senate in March 2014, and his term in office ended nine months later.

Ron Calderon’s plea deal — under which federal prosecutors promised not to seek a prison sentence of more than about six years — came several weeks before he was scheduled to go on trial. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 19.

Tom Calderon represented the 58th Assembly District from 1998-2002 and previously served on the Montebello Unified School District school board.