Former Assemblyman Tom Calderon gets one year in federal custody for money laundering tied to bribery scheme
LOS ANGELES >> Former state Assemblyman Tom Calderon on Monday was sentenced to a year in federal custody for money laundering, two months after he pleaded guilty to hiding tens of thousands of dollars in bribes paid to his brother, another former state politician.
U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder agreed to allow Calderon, 62, to serve half of his sentence at home under electronic monitoring due to medical reasons after suffering a heart attack and being diagnosed with diabetes.
His total sentence could be reduced to 10 months if he gets credit for good behavior in prison.
Calderon won’t enter prison until Oct. 27. His sentence includes a year of supervised release after serving his sentence, and he’ll also be required to perform 100 hours of community service.
Calderon plead guilty
Calderon agreed to plead guilty in June to the single-count of money laundering for concealing bribes two undercover FBI agents gave to his brother, former state Sen. Ron Calderon.
One of the agents posed as a movie studio executive offering a $30,000 bribe in exchange for help in the Legislature for lowering the threshold for California’s film tax credit from $1 million to $750,000.
The money was deposited into the Calderon Group, the public relations and lobbying company Tom Calderon founded after leaving the Assembly. Later, a $9,000 check was written to Ron Calderon’s daughter.
Ron Calderon pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud for his part in the scheme. He’s scheduled to be sentenced next Monday.
SENTENCE SENDS MESSAGE
While Tom Calderon may only end up spending five months in prison, Snyder said she hoped this case would discourage local politicians from engaging in corruption.
“(Tom Calderon) has no prior criminal history, but this a very serious money-laundering event,” she said. “We need to send a message to others motivated to commit similar crimes.”
An FBI official agreed with the judge.
“Today’s sentencing sends a message to those interested in using access to public office in order to reap personal benefits that they will be held responsible for their actions,” said Deirdre Fike, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, in an emailed statement.
“Mr. Calderon used his family ties to benefit personally at the expense of the constituents represented by his brother’s office,” Fike said.
Tom Calderon speaks
Calderon told the judge he was “remorseful” and regretted his mistakes.
“I just want to be able to survive this whole thing,” he said. “I’m ready to move on and accept punishment.”
Calderon refused to speak following the hearing.
CALDERON’S ATTORNEY WANTS PROBATION
Shepard Kopp, Calderon’s attorney, had asked for probation for his client.
Kopp tried to emphasize Calderon’s record as someone who represented Montebello in the Legislature.
“This is a man who has done a lot of good, not only for his community but for the state,” Kopp said. “He was a prime mover of the Eastside getting representation on the state and federal level.”
But Kopp said Calderon was accepting of his sentence.
Calderon served in the state Assembly from 1998-2002.
In a letter to the court, Calderon also blamed his mistakes on the fact that his wife, Marcella, had died in 2012 of colon cancer. He has since remarried.
“Marcella was by best friend and advisor,” he wrote. “Had she been alive I would never have thought of taken these actions, I would have discussed it with her and I have no doubt that I would have chosen a different course of action.”
CALDERON’S FRIENDS WEIGH IN
A number of friends, including clients of his consulting firm, wrote letters in support of Calderon. Art Aguilar, former Central Basin Municipal Water District general manager and a Calderon supporter, was also among the letter-writers.
Matt Jenkins, assistant U.S. attorney, in court papers, said it’s not a surprise that Calderon has many friends.
“While the government does not doubt the sincerity of these supporters, it notes that defendant has had a significant career as a politician and political lobbyist/consultant,” Jenkins wrote. “He was therefore, quite literally, in the business of making friends.”