Two Queens politicians and a borough GOP boss pleaded not guilty on Tuesday, April 23 in a federal case alleging they conspired to rig the mayoral election, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
State Senator Malcolm Smith, Councilmember Dan Halloran and Queens County Republican Party Vice Chair Vincent Tabone face bribery, conspiracy and wire fraud charges.
Bronx County GOP Chair Joseph Savino, Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret also entered not guilty pleas.
Prosecutors say Smith, a registered Democrat, sought to bribe county GOP leaders to let him run for mayor as a Republican. He needed consent from three county chairs to appear on this year’s GOP line.
According to indictment details, Smith discussed the possibility of being cheated by county chairs with an undercover FBI agent.
“The worst part about that is, when you screw somebody over money like that [...] you’re looking over your shoulder all the rest of your life,” he allegedly said.
“Business is business,” he continued. “They understand. You don’t take somebody’s money and just go, you know. Life is too short, I’m telling you. It comes back around fast.”
The state senator, elected in 2000, is also charged with plotting to misuse $500,000 in state funds, the indictment said.
Halloran is accused of setting up meetings between Smith and county bosses and negotiating payoffs.
He also agreed to give an undercover FBI agent $80,000 in City Council discretionary funds in exchange for cash to fuel his 2012 congressional campaign, according to the indictment.
The councilmember allegedly pocketed nearly $39,000 in cash and $6,500 in campaign checks, authorities said.
Tabone and Savino took at least $40,000 in cash bribes for their support, according to court papers.
An attorney for Tabone said the married father of three is “innocent of all charges.”
“Vince Tabone has never before been accused or convicted of any crime and has been an attorney in good standing for the last 13 years,” said his lawyer, Deborah Misir. “We are confident that when all the facts become clear, Vince Tabone will be fully exonerated.”
Lawyers for the other defendants could not be immediately reached.