New York City has added State Senator Malcolm Smith and a parade of other less prominent politicians to its ignominious role call of politicians implicated in corruption scandals, as the Democrat from Queens was arrested yesterday and charged with trying to use bribes of cash and political favors to buy a place on the Republican ticket for mayor of New York.
A total of six politicians, three Republicans and three Democrats, were also arrested, charged with accepting a total of more than $100,000 in bribes.
In a city that has seen its share of scandals over the decades, the Smith case is one of the biggest in years. Smith was considered a long-shot to win the Democratic nomination for the November election to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg, so Smith figured he could pull a move similar to what Bloomberg did 12 years ago—switch over to the Republican party so that he could face a less competitive field for the nomination.
Prosecutors accuse Smith of making payments to Republican City Councilman Daniel Halloran to set up meetings with top New York Republicans to assist in getting him on the mayoral ballot.
The case is the biggest in the city since New York state senator, Democrat Pedro Espada Jr. was convicted last year of stealing more than $600,000 from Soundview HealthCare, a partly federally funded company where he worked.
In addition to Smith and Halloran, the other politicians arrested on Tuesday were Queens County Republican Party Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone, Bronx County Republican Party Chairman Joseph Savino, Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Spring Valley Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret.
After Smith appeared in court, his lawyer Gerald Shargel said there is “much more to this story,” and his client plans to plead not guilty.
Smith allegedly bribed Republican officials with money he got through a real estate developer who turned out to be working undercover for the FBI.
In one conversation, Halloran said, “That’s politics, that’s politics, it’s all about how much. Not about whether or will, it’s about how much and that’s our politicians in New York, they’re all like that, all like that. And they get like that because of the drive that the money does for everything else. You can’t do anything without the [expletive] money.”
At a September meeting at a Manhattan restaurant where he received $7,500 in cash, Halloran told a cooperating witness working with the FBI, “Money is what greases the wheels – good, bad or indifferent.”
According to court records, at one point Queens Republican official Tabone frisked a real estate developer who turned out to be an FBI agent, checking for a recording device. But apparently he didn’t know what he was doing because the conversation was recorded anyway.
Prosecutors said Tabone and Savino received a total of $40,000 in bribes for promising to support Smith, while Halloran got $20,500 for setting up a meeting with people Smith believed were supporters but were in fact the cooperating witness and an undercover FBI agent. Halloran also was promised a position as deputy mayor or deputy police commissioner if Smith were elected.