Tag Archives: State Senator Malcolm Smith

Halloran, Smith enter not guilty pleas


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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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.

 

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Indictment in Smith, Halloran mayoral bribery case


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

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A federal grand jury has indicted State Senator Malcolm Smith and Councilmember Dan Halloran for an alleged bribery plot to rig the mayoral race.

Vincent Tabone, vice chair of the Queens County Republican Party, Joseph Savino, chair of the Bronx County GOP, Mayor Noramie Jasmin of Spring Valley, and the deputy mayor, Joseph Desmaret, were also named in yesterday’s indictment.

According to the indictment, Smith, a Democrat, with the help of Halloran, a Republican, tried to bribe his way into a GOP bid for mayor.

Smith needed approval from three of the city’s five GOP county chairmen to appear on the ballot as a Republican.

“We’re going to enter a plea of not guilty. The charges are ill-founded and we look forward to a time when Senator Smith can put this behind him,” said Smith’s attorney, Gerald Shargel Thursday, according to NBC New York.

The defendants are reportedly scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in White Plains federal court.

 

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Malcolm Smith back to work following bribery arrest


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Office of State Senator Malcolm Smith

State Senator Malcolm Smith is back to work following his arrest earlier this month on corruption charges.

“We’re serving the people just as we usually do,” said a Smith spokesperson. “We’ve been helping them as we always have.”

On Tuesday, April 2, Smith was arrested along with Councilmember Dan Halloran for allegedly trying to rig the upcoming mayoral election. Despite the charges, Smith arrived in Albany two weeks later to continue his legislation.

In Albany, the embattled senator met with members of the New York State Nurses Association to discuss two bills affecting healthcare: the Safe Patient Handling Act, which would establish safe patient handling policies; and the Safe Staffing for Quality Care, which would set minimum staffing requirements for care facilities.

“These two pieces of legislation will not only makes nurses’ jobs a little easier, but will improve the quality of care for patients,” Smith said.

Back in Senatorial District 14, the spokesperson said that Smith’s staff remains intact and the community feedback has been positive following the scandal.

“They know the senator’s reputation for serving the community and helping people, so they have been very supportive,” said the rep.

As for the future, Smith will be making minimal public appearances, and the staff is “playing it by ear,” according to the spokesperson.

Smith also made a return to Twitter, tweeting that this week’s theme is “God Knows the Heart.”

 

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Dan Halloran staffers resign following councilmember’s arrest


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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Embattled Councilmember Dan Halloran’s two top aides have jumped ship.

Chrissy Voskerichian, the legislator’s chief of staff, announced her immediate resignation on April 8. John Mulvey, Halloran’s legislative director, also announced he is quitting as of April 12.

“In leaving, I remain hopeful that the community will remember all of the hard work that went into preserving our neighborhoods and serving northeast Queens,” Voskerichian said in a letter.

Their boss was one of six officials arrested by the FBI last week for conspiring to rig the mayoral election, authorities said.

Halloran played a key part, officials said, in a bribery scheme to get Democratic State Senator Malcolm Smith on the Republican ticket for mayor.

According to the U.S. Attorney, he set up meetings between Smith and GOP county leaders while negotiating payouts. Halloran pocketed nearly $21,000 in cash in exchange for his help, officials said.

Voskerichian, 51, had worked for Halloran for close to four years. She spent the last two years as his chief of staff.

“I am incredibly proud of the work that the office has done,” Voskerichian said. “We resolved thousands of constituent cases, allocated millions of dollars in funding to local groups and worked hard to make the 19th Council District a better place to live.”

The former staffer makes no reference to Halloran’s scandal, which also involved the arrest of Smith, Queens County GOP vice chair Vincent Tabone, Bronx County GOP chair Joseph Savino and two upstate leaders.

Halloran’s official City Council website no longer lists the names of his staff members.

According to Kevin Ryan, Halloran’s spokesperson, the councilmember does not plan on resigning and looks forward to clearing his name.

“The councilmember greatly appreciates the hard work in service to the district that his entire staff has put forward, especially his chief of staff,” Ryan said. “Times like these can cause some staff members to reevaluate their career paths. He is sincerely grateful for every staff member’s service.”

 

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UPDATE: State Senator Malcolm Smith, Councilmember Dan Halloran arrested in alleged plot to rig mayor’s race


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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Two Queens politicians were among six officials arrested by the FBI Tuesday for conspiring to rig the mayoral election, authorities said.

State Senator Malcolm Smith allegedly bribed county GOP leaders to let him run for mayor as a Republican, according to the Southern District U.S. Attorney and FBI.

Councilmember Dan Halloran is accused of setting up meetings between Smith and county leaders and negotiating payoffs. He allegedly pocketed nearly $21,000 in cash in exchange for his help, officials said.

“Elected officials are called public servants because they are supposed to serve the people,” FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos said in a statement. “They broke the law and the public trust. There is a price to pay for that kind of betrayal.”

Smith, a registered Democrat, needed consent from three of the city’s five Republican Party county chairmen to appear on the Republican ballot for the city’s 2013 mayoral election.

Vincent Tabone, vice chair of the Queens County Republican Party, and Joseph Savino, chair of the Bronx County GOP, were allegedly part of the conspiracy scheme, officials said. The pair took at least $40,000 in cash bribes in return for their support, a 28-page federal criminal complaint detailed.

“Today’s charges demonstrate, once again, that a show-me-the-money culture seems to pervade every level of New York government,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. “Smith drew up the game plan and Councilman Halloran essentially quarterbacked that drive by finding party chairmen who were wide open to receiving bribes.”

Halloran also agreed to give an undercover FBI agent, posing as a wealthy real estate developer, $80,000 from City Council discretionary funds in exchange for matching funds for his congressional campaign.

The councilmember received $7,500 in cash on September 7 and $6,500 in checks later that month from the agent.

“That’s politics. It’s all about how much,” Halloran allegedly said to the undercover agent. “And that’s our politicians in New York. They’re all like that.”

The agent allegedly told Smith getting support from county leaders would cost “a pretty penny.”

“But it’s worth it. Because you know how big a deal it is,” Smith said, according to the complaint. “You pull this off, you can have the house . . . I’ll be the tenant.”

Smith struck a deal with the undercover agent, authorities said, to use his Senate position to help obtain state funds for a road project in Spring Valley that would benefit the agent’s posed development company.

Mayor Noramie Jasmin of Spring Valley, and the deputy mayor, Joseph Desmaret, were also arrested in connection with the scheme.

Smith, elected to the State Senate in 2000, was the chair of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) before his power was revoked shortly after the arrest.

IDC Leader and Senate co-leader Jeffrey Klein said Smith should think about resigning.

“I believe that Senator Smith should seriously consider whether or not he can continue to effectively serve his constituents,” Klein said.

Halloran has been the Republican incumbent in Council District 19 since 2009. He is running for re-election this year.

A Council vote next week could strip him of his committee assignments, freezing his ability to make funding allocations, according to Speaker Christine Quinn. Halloran’s case was sent to the Council’s Standards and Ethics Committee.

“These allegations represent a reprehensible abuse of the public’s trust,” Quinn said. “If true, then the full weight of the legal system should be brought to bear on all parties implicated.”

Halloran allegedly wanted to use the bribe money to pay his mortgage, the complaint said. He also urged Smith to appoint him as Deputy Police Commissioner if the hopeful won his bid for mayor.

“You can’t do anything without the f—ing money,” Halloran told the undercover agent, according to the complaint. “Money is what greases the wheels.”

According to Halloran’s spokesperson Kevin Ryan, the lawmaker denies allegations.

The six defendants were arraigned Tuesday in federal court in White Plains, but no pleas were entered.

They were released on $250,000 bonds with travel restrictions and are slated to return to court on April 23.

Meanwhile, Smith’s neighbors called the senator a morally sound leader.

“I’ve known the family for years, and they’ve always been good to me,” said a friend, who did not want to be named. “He has always been good to me. As a neighbor, he’s treated me well and that’s all I know.”

Constituent India Holloway said Smith is held to a higher standard.

“He’s a senator, he knows what’s right,” she said. “He’s supposed to be an upstanding citizen. He represents all of us. What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong, and he should uphold that.”

Todd Shapiro, a spokesperson for Smith, touted the senator’s 13 years of service.

“He will be vindicated when all the facts in the case are revealed,” he said.

-Additional reporting by Maggie Hayes

 

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12 Sandy-damaged schools reopen in Rockaways, Brooklyn


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYC Mayor's office / Spencer T. Tucker

Twelve schools that were closed because of Superstorm Sandy reopened this morning, including  four that started class ahead of schedule.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott marked the occasion with a visit to P.S. 43 in Far Rockaway Monday.

Because of flooding, power outages, and other damage from Sandy, the school was not supposed to open until November 30.

“Our most important task was getting students back in the classroom as soon as possible,” said Walcott. “Teachers, principals, custodians and facilities personnel have been working around the clock to get the vast majority of students back to their schools, and today we can welcome back 5,400 students to their original buildings. We will continue to make repairs as quickly as possible in order to get the remaining 18 schools reopened.”

Including the schools that reopened today, 26,000 students who were displaced from their schools because of the superstorm have returned to their regular buildings, but 7,800 still remain at reassigned locations.

Last Monday, Bloomberg announced a $500 million plan to help repair public schools and hospitals that were damaged by Sandy.