State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis), City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and four others were formally indicted last Thursday in the alleged bribery and extortion scheme for which they were arrested April 2.
They all pleaded not guilty in federal court in upstate White Plains on Tuesday.
Smith, Halloran, then-Queens Republican Party Vice Chairman Vince Tabone, then-Bronx GOP Chairman Jay Savino and two upstate village officials were all indicted for their various alleged roles in what the government says was a scheme to assist Smith in a run for mayor and enrich the other defendants through bribery and extortion.
They initially had been charged by the United States attorney for the Southern District based on a criminal complaint signed by an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agent who had played an active role in the case, posing as a wealthy developer who would provide some of the bribe money.
Last week’s indictment echoed the complaint, alleging that Smith sought to bribe Republican Party leaders in the city into allowing him to run for mayor on the GOP line. As a Democrat, Smith would need special permission from a majority of the city’s five Republican leaders in order to do so. State law allows members of one party to run for office under another party banner if they are granted what is called a Wilson-Pakula certificate by the leadership.
Smith allegedly planned to have the FBI agent, whom he thought was a businessman, and a cooperating witness, whom the press has identified as an upstate developer, bribe GOP officials to get the Wilson-Pakula. Tens of thousands of dollars were allegedly given to Tabone and Savino in exchange for their support. Halloran also allegedly accepted tens of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for coordinating the scheme.
Halloran also allegedly took bribes in exchange for promises to use taxpayer dollars to assist the company supposedly represented by the FBI agent. At the same time, Smith allegedly was going to provide taxpayer money for a road project in the upstate Village of Spring Valley that would benefit the agent’s fictitious firm. The mayor and deputy mayor of Spring Valley, Noramie Jasmin and Joseph Desmaret, allegedly took bribes in exchange for allowing a development proposed by the fake company to go forward.
The defendants allegedly met with one another at restaurants and in their cars from last fall through March to discuss their plans and exchange bribe money. They are variously charged with conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud and extortion.
Smith has been removed from the Independent Democratic Conference, a small group of lawmakers that allied itself with the Republicans in the state Senate in order to keep the Democrats from gaining control of the body after they won a slim majority last November.
Halloran has been stripped of several councilmanic privileges, including the ability to dole out the money known as member item funding to nonprofit groups in his district.
At the time of the arrests, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara said in a prepared statement: “Today’s charges demonstrate, once again, that a show-me-the-money culture seems to pervade every level of New York government. The complaint describes an unappetizing smorgasbord of graft and greed involving six officials who together built a corridor of corruption stretching from Queens and the Bronx to Rockland County and all the way up to Albany itself.”