Federal agents investigating members of the Calderon family, one of the most powerful families in California politics, have issued subpoenas and search warrants seeking records involving companies in Anaheim and Newport Beach, according to reporting by Voice of OC and other news organizations.
Although the FBI has remained mum on the investigation, reporting by the Los Angeles Times has indicated that it centers around a political consulting contract that the Commerce-based Central Basin Municipal Water District had with Tom Calderon, the brother of state Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, and uncle of Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier.
The water district, which has been issued at least two federal subpoenas for records, has contracted with a subsidiary of Anaheim-based Willdan Group to conduct the agency's fiscal operations. The LA Times reported earlier this year that the subsidiary, Willdan Financial Services, was one of several companies whose records were subpoenaed from the water district.
Willdan Group hired Anaheim City Councilwoman Kris Murray as senior vice president of business development and government affairs in 2011, just weeks before Willdan Financial Services won the contract to run the water district's fiscal operations. The company has made several campaign contributions to water district board members.
Murray did not return a call seeking comment. Robert Lavoie, a Willdan attorney, said that Murray has had no dealings with Willdan Financial Services and was not involved in the district granting contracts to the company.
An Aug. 5 subpoena delivered to the water district and obtained by Voice of OC requests documents related to an underground water storage project and in addition to “Willdan” names Tom Calderon, his consulting firm, “Pacifica,” and engineering firm HDR.
A previous subpoena requested personnel records for former water district General Manager Art Aguilar, a resident of Anaheim.
In an interview with Voice of OC, Tom Calderon denied having any role in the water district awarding contracts to Willdan.
News of the federal investigation broke when the FBI in June raided Sen. Ron Calderon's state Capitol office. According to an LA Times source, the FBI is looking into Ron Calderon's “income stream.” The senator has championed bills that would benefit the central basin water district while the district was paying Tom Calderon consulting fees.
For more than 30 years, two generations of the Calderon family have served in the Legislature, representing sections of Los Angeles County that generally run from the city of Bell east to the Orange County border.
Charles Calderon, 63, was elected to the state Senate in 1982 and re-elected until 1998, when he was required to step down because of term limits.
That year his brother Tom, 59, was elected to the Assembly and served until 2002 when he stepped aside. The youngest of the three Calderon brothers, Ron, 56, was elected to succeed Tom in 1998 and served in the Assembly until 2006, when he won election to the state Senate, where he continues to serve.
The second generation of Calderons joined the Legislature with the Assembly election in 2012 of Charles’ son, Ian Calderon, 28, D-Whittier, in a district that also includes Buena Park in Orange County.
Ian Calderon attended high school in Orange County and won election to the Assembly last year. Anaheim City Councilman Jordan Brandman is Ian Calderon’s district director.
In April, FBI and IRS agents searched two health companies that were clients of Tom Calderon. According to the Wall Street Journal, the searches were part of a fraud investigation by the local U.S. attorney’s office.
The businesses searched were Newport Beach-based Industrial Pharmacy Management LLC, which dispenses medications to patients in doctors' offices, and the 184-bed Pacific Hospital of Long Beach. Both companies are owned by Michael Drobot of Newport Beach.
Details are not being released because the investigations are ongoing, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.
At first, Tom Calderon denied working for Pharmacy Management Group. After a reporter pointed out that the company was listed as a client on his form 700, which included income for the year 2012, he said he actually hadn't worked for the company for at least six years.
Tom Calderon did not explain the discrepancy, nor did he describe the nature of his consulting work for the company.
In its article, the Wall Street Journal said it earlier “identified the hospital as one of the most prolific spine surgery facilities in California. From 2001 to 2010, according to state data, it performed 5,138 spinal fusions on workers' compensation patients and billed $533 million for them — three times as much as any other hospital in the state.”
When Tom Calderon ran for the Assembly last year he listed the hospital and the pharmacy as clients of his consulting firm on state conflict of interest statements known as Form 700s.
It’s not known whether the FBI group that is investigating Calderon’s water district connections is connected to the federal investigators involved in the pharmacy and hospital probes.
But The Los Angeles Times reported last month that “Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) refunded a $20,000 check which Tom Calderon’s client, Pacific Hospital of Long Beach, wrote for Calderon’s ticket to” a legislative-lobbyist golf tournament at Pebble Beach.
Regarding the FBI investigation, Tom Calderon said: “I've gotta tell ya, I've always been very careful how I do my business. And I don't expect anything to come of this.”