New York State Senator Malcolm Smith and City Council representative Dan Halloran have been arrested for attempting to manipulate this year’s New York City mayoral election. Their arrest, along with four others, is the culmination of an extensive undercover corruption investigation.
The co-conspirators joined an alliance to place Smith, a Democrat who represents Queens Village, St. Albans and Jamaica, on the Republican mayoral ballot by bribing GOP leaders, according to the New York Post. Smith served as senate majority leader in Albany for a time and is a leading African American political figure.
Halloran is a Republican member of the New York City Council and also the first pagan to ever be elected to a political position in the United States, according to an in depth Village Voice report. Halloran is "First Atheling," or prince, of a Germanic neo-heathenist "theod" or tribe despite his “traditional Irish” upbringing.
Halloran said his study of Norsemen and Viking archaeology and field research in Ireland led him to develop an interest in “Germanic mythology and lore.”
On his group's website, Halloran stated, "We believe in and honor the Gods and Goddesses of the North, spirits of the land, and the memories of our ancestors," and described his group as "a cultural, religious and martial organization; dedicated to reviving the folkways of the Norman peoples of Northern Europe.
Halloran has said "I was raised a Roman Catholic right here in Auburndale. I was baptized into the Catholic Church and took my confirmation at 13. I attended Jesuit schools. Then and now, faith is a cornerstone of my life."
Halloran served as legal counsel and incorporating attorney for the New York City Pagan Pride Project.
Smith was viewed as a possible successor to the current Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The 56-year-old had spent much of the past year trying to drum up support, including that of New York GOP chief Ed Cox.
FBI agents arrested Halloran and Smith at their homes just after 6am on April 2nd, 2013.
Halloran said he has “no idea” what the arrest was about and added, “I’m sure the truth will come out once I have an opportunity to find out what’s going on.”
Allegedly Smith enlisted Halloran, a Republican, to set up meetings with party leaders and negotiate thousands of dollars in bribes. These bribes were masked as payments for legal and accounting services.
It is believed that Halloran collected thousands in bribes for himself. He is being charged separately with taking bribes from a consultant in return for up to $80,000 in City Council discretionary funding.
Their alleged plans date back as far as August 2011, however, their schemes came to the attention of the FBI because of a confidential informant and an undercover FBI agent posing as a real estate developer.
In a written statement released on Tuesday, FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos said, “Elected officials are called public servants because they are supposed to serve the people. Public service is not supposed to be a shortcut to self-enrichment.
"People in New York, in Spring Valley -- in any city or town in this country -- rightly expect their elected or appointed representatives to hold themselves to a higher standard. At the very least, public officials should obey the law.
"As alleged, these defendants did not obey the law; they broke the law and the public trust. There is a price to pay for that kind of betrayal.”
On September 7, at a Manhattan restaurant, Halloran told a government informant, “That’s politics, that’s politics, it’s all about how much,” according to the criminal complaint.
“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.”
He added, “You can’t get anything without the f--king money.”
Halloran then received a $7,500 cash bribe from the witness who is cooperating with the FBI. He added, “Money is what greases the wheels — good, bad or indifferent.”
Smith also met with the informant and an undercover agent in his Albany office, on March 21. He told them not to pay the GOP co-conspirators “even a nickel more” until they stated support for his candidacy.
On November 16 Smith met with the agent in a Manhattan hotel and spoke about his need to switch the allegiance of a particular borough GOP chief. The very same day he told an undercover agent at Grand Central station that if he could win the support of the GOP boss “you can have the house...I’ll be the tenant.”
Two months ago, on February 8, Halloran met with the agent and informant to tell them the Bronx Republican Chairman Joseph Savino "wanted $25,000 'in an envelope,' and Queens GOP Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone wanted $50,000 with half of the money before he signed the (ballot-support) certificate and the other half after."
US Attorney Preet Bharara said, “Today’s charges demonstrate, once again, that a show-me-the-money culture seems to pervade every level of New York government. The complaint describes an unappetizing smorgasbord of graft and greed involving six officials who together built a corridor of corruption stretching from Queens and the Bronx to Rockland County and all the way up to Albany itself.
"As alleged, Senator Malcolm Smith tried to bribe his way to a shot at Gracie Mansion – Smith drew up the game plan and Councilman Halloran essentially quarterbacked that drive by finding party chairmen who were wide open to receiving bribes. After the string of public corruption scandals that we have brought to light, many may rightly resign themselves to the sad truth that perhaps the most powerful special interest in politics is self-interest.
"We will continue pursuing and punishing every corrupt official we find, but the public corruption crisis in New York is more than a prosecutor’s problem.”
Feds also raided the homes of the Bronx Republican Chairman Joseph Savino and Queens GOP Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone who were arrested on charges of wire fraud and bribery.
Also arrested on Tuesday were Noramie Jasmin, the mayor of Spring Valley in Rockland County, and her deputy mayor, Joseph Desmaret. They are accused of taking bribes in return for approving the sale of village land to a private concern.
If convicted, Smith and Halloran could face up to 45 years in prison. Their prosecution will rely heavily on wire tapes and recorded conversations.
Halloran, too, is no stranger to controversy.
During the Christmas blizzard of 2010, the first-term councilman from Bayside claimed he had evidence that Sanitation Department plow drivers were intentionally slowing down the cleanup as part of a wildcat job action.
But he refused to assist in the feds’ probe, citing attorney-client privilege.
The city’s Department of Investigation later released a report that found “no actual evidence about a possible slowdown.”
Halloran, a 42-year-old lawyer and former city cop, ran for Congress last year.
During that campaign, The Post reported the state Board of Elections had referred his campaign to the Albany DA for investigation and possible prosecution because he had not filed state campaign-finance reports for more than two years.
Halloran later filed the appropriate forms, but lost to then-Assemblywoman Grace Meng.
Today's arrests stunned GOP mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis, who employed Tabone as a top campaign adviser.
Catsimatidis said he immediately took Tabone off the campaign and called the whole affair “very sad.”