Workers Comp Zone


Scandal is roiling California’s Capitol, and workers’ comp is involved.

According to the Sacramento Bee article by Laurel Rosethal, an FBI affidavit (published online by Al-Jazeera America) alleges that legislators Tom and Ron Calderon
” were involved in a bribery scheme with Michael Drobot, owner of Pacific Hospital of Long Beach, which specializes in spinal surgery for injured workers. The FBI said it believed Drobot was involved “in large-scale health care fraud,” including paying kickbacks to surgeons who performed spinal fusion surgeries.”

Drobot and associates are targets in various legal actions that allege, among other things, that phony non-FDA approved spinal hardware was implanted in injured workers at the Long Beach hospital.

The Bee notes that:
“The alleged arrangement was that Ron Calderon would limit or kill workers’ compensation legislation that would restrict profitable spinal surgeries at the hospital, and Drobot would pay him $28,000 in bribes, “disguised” as payments for a job to Ron Calderon’s son, Zachary. The affidavit also notes that Drobot paid Tom Calderon $10,000 a month as a consultant. Drobot, through an attorney categorically, denied the allegations.”

The Bee article also contains the following mention of Assemblyman Kevin DeLeon:
“The affidavit lists three bills the FBI alleges were influenced by Ron Calderon on behalf of Drobot. It said de León amended one bill at Calderon’s request so it would have less impact on Drobot’s business.

The FBI affidavit also alleges that Ron and Tom Calderon had a meeting with Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, and persuaded him to drop a second bill that “would have disrupted Drobot’s health care fraud scheme.” The Calderons’ brother Charles Calderon, then an assemblyman, made the August 2012 motion to have the bill sent to the inactive file, according to the affidavit.”

According to the Bee’s summary of the affidavit:
“A third bill, carried in 2012 by de León, allowed separate reimbursements for spinal devices to continue through 2013. The bill passed overwhelmingly, and Ron Calderon was one of the few lawmakers to oppose it. But he allegedly told the FBI undercover agent that he and Tom Calderon had been influential in getting language inserted that was more advantageous to Drobot. Ultimately, Ron Calderon asked the undercover agent to make a political contribution to de Leon at a fundraiser, scheduled in conjunction with a prize fight in Las Vegas. According to the agent, Calderon made the suggestion because de León had complained that he had not been rewarded for dropping the implant legislation. “I don’t mind helping, but I haven’t seen any help,” Calderon quoted de León as saying, according to the affidavit.”

In fairness, it must be stressed that these are simply allegations at this point.
Moreover, it is not clear whether the FBI might be targeting other California politicians other than the Calderons. DeLeon’s spokesman was quoted in the Bee article as denying that DeLeon is a target of the investigation.

It’s likely that in coming days we will see more stories breaking on this investigation.

DeLeon was the sponsor and floor manager of the 2012 SB 863 comp reform bill and has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Senate President Pro Tem as current Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg terms out next year.

The Calderon brothers and Assemblyman Lieu have been prominent on California workers’ comp issues in recent years.

And in recent years as Latino politicians rose to prominence in California, Latino interest in workers’ comp has grown.

When this Drobot saga is all over, we may find that the careers of a number of workers’ comp doctors and lawyers are thrashed, not to mention a handful of politicians.

With a large system such as workers’ comp there is always going to be a segment that runs amok with greed and abuse. Unfortunately, it is commonly acknowledged in California workers’ comp circles that there have been some persistent abusive practices in Southern California.

What seems new about these emerging allegations is that the tentacles of abusive workers’ comp doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs may have extended into Sacramento’s Capitol.

Here is a link to the affidavit posted on Al Jazeera: … fices.html

Stay tuned.

Julius Young

Category: Political developments