Malcolm A. Smith, a democratic state senator from Queens, was arrested before dawn on Tuesday and released on $250,000 bail after his arraignment in United States District Court in White Plains. Smith is accused of trying to buy a slot on the NYC mayoral ballot.
His convoluted and brazen plan, disclosed by prosecutors in a criminal complaint on Tuesday, involved the aid of Queens Republican City Councilman Daniel J. Halloran, III, two Republican leaders from Queens and the Bronx, Vincent Tabone and Joseph J. Savino—and the help of another man, who, as it turns out, was a cooperating witness for the Federal Bureau of Investigation working to record conversations about the plot.
Transcripts of conversations with an F.B.I. agent posing as a businessman are also included in the complaint.
On Tuesday, Smith, Councilman Halloran and the Republican Party leaders were charged with wire fraud and bribery. The senator was also charged with extortion.
The scheme involved the payment of thousands of dollars to Republican leaders to put Smith on the Republican Mayoral ballot in November. The bribes were paid to secure certificates authorizing Smith, a registered Democrat, to run on the primary ballot as a Republican.
The first meetings described in the complaint took place last November, about a year prior to the election. During a meeting in a White Plains hotel with the undercover agent and the cooperating witness, Smith noted that one chairman was supporting another mayoral candidate and said, “If you can change him, that would be huge.”
According to the complaint, Halloran, who was to act as a middleman between the undercover agent and the Republican chairmen, believed he would be rewarded with the job of deputy police commissioner if Mr. Smith were elected mayor.
On Feb. 8, in a meeting with the cooperating witness and the agent in a Manhattan hotel, Halloran reported on his progress: Bronx Republican Chairman Savino wanted $25,000 for his signature, the complaint stated. “In an envelope,” Halloran suggested. Savino eventually took $15,000, the authorities said.
Halloran said Tabone, vice chairman of the Queens Republican Party, wanted $50,000, with half up front before the signature, the complaint said.
Smith met with the agent and the witness two days later at a Manhattan hotel, suggesting that the payments be structured to appear less suspicious.
“I wouldn’t give them more than, like, 10,” Smith said, according to the complaint. “Just to start out.”
The convoluted case also includes charges against the mayor of Spring Valley, N.Y. and her deputy. According to the complaint, the witness and the agent set up a sham development corporation and proposed to build a community center. The mayor, Noramie F. Jasmin, and her assistant, Joseph A. Desmaret, are accused of taking bribes in return for their support of the project.
According to the criminal complaint, at one point, Smith promised to do what he could to get a road improved near the proposed community center. The complaint quotes a tape on which Smith, the vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and a member of the Transportation Committee, explained how such money could be easily found:
“Multimodal money,” Smith said, “is outside the budget and it’s always around.”
All six defendants were arrested before dawn on Tuesday, and all were released on $250,000 bail after their arraignments in United States District Court in White Plains.
In all, three schemes are described by the complaint. Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan whose office is prosecuting the case, said the arrests demonstrated that “a show-me-the-money culture seems to pervade every level of New York government.”
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