Tuesday, April 2, 2013

FBI busts Queens state Sen. Malcolm Smith and City Councilman Dan Halloran in mayoral election bribery plot 

Smith and Halloran were arrested on charges they schemed to rig the 2013 mayoral election by buying Smith a spot on the GOP ballot. Agents were also rounding up 4 others, including GOP party leaders. Some of the payments were made, but Smith never actually jumped into the race.

Updated: Tuesday, April 2, 2013, 10:26 AM

 Sen. Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, speaks in the Senate on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)


Sen. Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, was busted for a bribery scheme connected to the 2013 mayoral election on Tuesday.

The FBI busted Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith of Queens and City Councilman Dan Halloran Tuesday on charges they tried to buy Smith a spot on the Republican ballot in the 2013 mayoral election, sources said.
Agents were also rounding up four suspects, including Bronx Republican Chairman Jay Savino and Queens GOP vice chairman Vincent Tabone, who were to receive bribes in exchange for backing Smith when he switched sides last year in a never-realized run for City Hall.
Non-Republican candidates need the backing of three of the five borough party leaders to get access to a GOP ballot line. Smith's name was circulated as a potential candidate, but he never actually jumped into the race.
Halloran, a Republican council member from Queens, is charged with acting as liaison in arranging the bribes, which were to be hidden in consultant's contracts, sources said. At least some of the payments were made, they said.

Jeanne Noonan/New York Daily News

City Councilman Dan Halloran, R-Queens, is charged with acting as liaison in arranging the bribes.

Smith was picked up by agents early Tuesday at his Queens home.
A 28-page complaint unsealed this morning detailed the sting operation: An undercover FBI agent posing as a wealthy real estate mogul acted as a facilitator among the politicians and the county leaders, recording hours of conversation between November and last week.
Halloran was to receive $20,500 while Tabone and Savino received $40,000 in bribes with a promise of $40,000 more.
At meetings in hotels in White Plains and Manhattan and in Queens restaurants, Halloran promised to win support for Smith from Savino and Tabone. Smith actively participated in multiple conversations and spoke openly about bribing county leaders, the complaint says.

Victor Chu for New York Daily News

 Bronx Republican Chairman Jay Savino was also being rounded up for plotting to receive bribes. 

In one conversation with a confidential witness, Halloran discussed getting the witness’ friend a job in an autism program funded with council money.
The witness was promising to raise money for Halloran’s losing congressional campaign.
“That’s politics. It’s all about how much,” Halloran responded. “That’s our politicians in New York. They’re all like that, all like that. And they get like that because of the drives that the money does for everything else. You can’t do anything without the f------ money.”
The witness then paid Halloran $7,500 in cash, causing the Queens politician to say, “Money is what greases the wheels — good, bad or indifferent.”

Jeff Bachner for New York Daily News

 Queens GOP vice chairman Vincent Tabone

In another conversation, the undercover agent told Smith it would cost “a pretty penny” to bribe the GOP leaders and asked Smith if it was worth it. Smith responded, “It’s worth it. You know this is a pretty big deal,” according to the complaint.
Smith also promised to fund one of the bogus developer’s projects with taxpayer money and made clear he wanted to use the real estate developer as cover stating, “You’re the house. I’m the tenant.”
The bribes were to be disguised as legal payments doled out in increments of $10,000 or less.
At a January meeting in his Albany office with the undercover agent and an unnamed cooperating witness, Smith worried that the county leaders were holding up support because they wanted more money. He told the undercover agent not to give “even a nickel more” to one leader unless he “stands on the Empire State Building and drops every person he endorsed and held Malcolm up and says, ‘He’s the best since sliced bread. In fact, he’s better than sliced bread.’”
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was scheduled to hold a news conference in Manhattan. All six defendants were scheduled to be presented in White Plains Federal Court later in the day.
The charges mark a tremendous fall from grace for Smith, who for a time was president pro tem of the state Senate when Democrats briefly held the chamber’s leadership in Albany.
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