State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Jamaica), City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and Queens Republican Party Deputy Chairman Vince Tabone were arrested Tuesday morning, charged along with three other people outside Queens in an alleged plot to bribe GOP officials.
Smith was seeking the Republican nomination for mayor, which would require a special signoff, known as a Wilson Pakula petition, from GOP leaders, because the senator is a Democrat. To get it, he allegedly bribed Halloran and Tabone.
Also charged were Bronx Republican Chairman Joseph Savino, Noramie Jasmin, the mayor of Spring Valley, a village in Rockland County, and Jasmin's deputy, Joseph Desmaret. One aspect of the case deals with alleged bribes given to the village officials in exchange for their approval of a development project involving the sale of public land. Smith allegedly was to steer state funding to a road project that would benefit the developer.
In another aspect, Halloran was to provide City Council discretionary funds to the company for work on a senior center project in Queens.
The case was built utilizing an undercover agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a cooperating witness, wiretaps and more. The conspirators allegedly met to discuss the plot or exchange money in Queens, Manhattan and Rockland and Westchester counties.
Halloran allegedly took bribes in the form of cash or checks seven times. Tabone, a one-time candidate for state Assembly, allegedly once frisked the undercover agent to see if he was recording a conversation and failed to discover that he was. Smith allegedly said that if the bribed party officials balked at coming through with their support for him before getting the rest of their payments, he would tell them they'd have to stand on the Empire State Building and say Malcolm Smith is the best thing since sliced bread — "matter of fact, he's better than sliced bread."
Smith, Halloran, Tabone and Savino were charged with conspiracy to bribe New York City political party officials and wire fraud. Smith also was charged with extortion. Jasmin and Desmaret were charged with mail fraud.
“Elected officials are called public servants because they are supposed to serve the people," FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos said in a prepared statement. "Public service is not supposed to be a shortcut to self-enrichment. People in New York, in Spring Valley — in any city or town in this country — rightly expect their elected or appointed representatives to hold themselves to a higher standard. At the very least, public officials should obey the law.
"As alleged, these defendants did not obey the law; they broke the law and the public trust. There is a price to pay for that kind of betrayal.”
This story was partially rewritten after release of the indictment against the six defendants.