When a breaking news event sucks up every amount of Los Angeles teevee news attention--take Friday's nightmare at Santa Monica College, for instance--I find myself hoping for an Orange County angle so not to waste all that background noise listening I do in between making typos.
Another recent news event like that was last Tuesday's FBI raid of the offices of state Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello). But as it turns out, I may have already reported on an Orange County connection to that case.
Remember this April post?
Lemme refresh your memory: A sealed grand jury indictment led the FBI, IRS and other government agents to search Industrial Pharmacy Management LLC in Newport Beach and Pacific Hospital of Long Beach, which are companies owned by Michael D. Drobot, who is suspected of workers compensation fraud.
Drobot, 68, acquired 184-bed Pacific Hospital in 1997 and shifted its focus to spine surgeries for workers comp patients. It would become one of the most prolific spine-surgery facilities in California, performing 5,138 spinal fusions on workers' compensation patients and billing $533 million for them from 2001-2010--three times as much as any other hospital in the state. Industrial Pharmacy Management dispenses medications to patients in doctors' offices.
Drobot and Pacific Hospital are major California campaign donors, having given more than $600,000--mostly to Democrats--including $130,000 to former Governor Gray Davis.
Calderon, who chairs the Senate Insurance Committee that has jurisdiction over the workers' comp system, has also been lavished with contributions from Drobot and Pacific Hospital, according to campaign finance data filed with the secretary of state. His various campaign committees have received $26,200 in contributions from Pacific Hospital and its employees since 2003.
Included in the Drobot interests' donations was $10,000 for a legal defense fund Calderon created in 2006 to deal with an election recount controversy. The fund, which was closed in 2009, had $150,000 after the matter had been resolved, the Sacramento Bee reports.
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The giving extended to Ron Calderon's former lawmaker brother, Tom, who got $65,000 from Pacific Hospital for his 2002 race and another $23,400 from Drobot and other hospital executives in his race for the Assembly last year.
The federal probe is reportedly related to consulting fees allegedly paid to Tom Calderon, and no link has publicly been made to Drobot, Pacific Hospital and Industrial Pharmacy Management.
Ron Calderon returned to his Sacramento office today, claiming he has done nothing wrong. In a second Bee piece, Mark Geragos, the state senator's high-powered defense lawyer, reportedly says the feds "have no case."