California state senator took bribes for aiding workers’ comp fraud
November 1, 2013
California Democratic State Senator Ronald Calderon accepted bribes from a Southern California hospital executive running a workers’ compensation scheme, as well as from undercover FBI agents posing as Hollywood executives, according to a sealed FBI affidavit. [Al Jazeera]
Earlier this year, The California State Compensation Insurance Fund, which makes payments on workers’ compensation claims, filed racketeering charges against Michael Drobot, who ran a spinal surgery clinic in Long Beach. The complaint alleges that Drobot received $161 million through inflated surgery room and spinal implant reimbursement fees.
Calderon, who represents a suburban Los Angeles County district, accepted bribes from Drobot in the form of a monthly consulting fee of at least $10,000 and a one-time payment of $1 million.
In exchange, Calderon lobbied other legislators against making cuts to state workers’ compensation payments for spinal implant procedures. The state senator also lobbied to change language in a bill that would limit Drobot’s ability to send inflated invoices to the Compensation Insurance Fund.
Drobot distributed bribes to Calderon through his brother, former assemblyman Thomas Calderon, and his son, Zachary, who worked a summer job at Drobot’s hospital. Drobot paid Calderon $28,000 through his the son, the affidavit says.
Thomas Calderon’s nonprofit Californians for Diversity received the $1 million payment for assistance in workers’ compensation negotiations. After a settlement in 2004, Drobot received $27.5 million in workers’ compensation payments.
Drobot is also accused of operating a shell company to inflate the price of spinal implants.
Calderon is additionally accused of accepting more than $60,000 in bribes from FBI investigators posing as Hollywood executives. He received much of the money through his children, in exchange for working to make more films eligible for special tax credits.
Calderon chairs the Senate Select Committee on California’s Film and Television Industries.