Remarks by FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos on Public Corruption Arrests of New York State Senator Malcolm Smith, New York City Council Member Daniel Halloran, and Others
|FBI New York April 02, 2013|
FBI New York Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos delivered the following remarks at a press conference concerning a public corruption investigation and subsequent arrests:
This morning, FBI agents arrested six people who violated the public trust and put personal ambition and greed ahead of the interests of the people they were elected or appointed to serve.
The six defendants were involved in three bribery schemes that saw tens of thousands of dollars change hands.
The common thread was that evidence of the three schemes was mainly gathered by two participants: unbeknownst to the corrupt officials, these two were working for the FBI. One is a cooperating witness [CW]; the other is an FBI agent working undercover and posing as a wealthy real estate developer.
The fact is, while the CW and the undercover did great work, they did not have to twist any arms. The defendants were eager to take bribes or have bribes paid on their behalf.
Democratic State Senator Malcolm Smith needed the blessing of three New York City Republican Party chairmen to run for mayor on the Republican line. He engaged the services of the CW and the undercover to arrange for bribes to get those approvals.
In exchange for paying the bribes for Smith, the CW and undercover were promised a half-million dollars in state transportation funding for their Spring Valley real estate project.
City Councilman Daniel Halloran was paid more than $20,000 to arrange bribe payments to Bronx Republican Chairman Joseph Savino and Queens Republican Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone so they would grant the Wilson-Pakula letters for Smith.
After a series of meetings to negotiate the price for their approval, Savino and Tabone each met with Halloran and the undercover—at separate times, in the same restaurant—to receive their payoffs from the undercover. This was Valentine’s Day, but the way to their hearts wasn’t a box of chocolates or a dozen roses. It was cold hard cash in an envelope.
When Tabone, the Queens Republican vice chairman, was asked if he could deliver the Wilson-Pakula letter, he boasted to the undercover, “Nobody else runs the party. I run the party.”
Clearly aware the scheme was illegal, Tabone patted down the undercover to see if he was wearing a recording device. He was—but Tabone was less skilled at conducting a pat-down than he was at conducting a shakedown.
Halloran, a former police officer, was an eager intermediary. In addition to the money he took for acting as go-between for Smith, Halloran also took more than $20,000 in bribes and illegal campaign contributions to steer $80,000 in city council money to the CW and the undercover for a no-work “consulting contract.”
Spring Valley had its own crooked politicians. Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret conspired with the CW and the undercover to rig the sale of a parcel of Spring Valley property.
In return for a concealed ownership interest in the project for Jasmin, and cash money to Desmaret, the mayor and deputy mayor sold their votes on the project and their influence over the other Board members.
In a piece of pure theater, they staged the presentations to the Village Board. The mayor knew the three supposedly unrelated developers were all in collusion. She did not know that all three were FBI agents.
Jasmine and Desmaret were not voting the interests of the people they represented. They were pursuing their own self-interest.
Elected officials are called public servants because they’re supposed to serve the people. Public service is not supposed to be a shortcut to self-enrichment.
In all of their dealings with the defendants, the CW and the undercover encountered greedy people in positions of power. 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 of conduct. At a bare minimum, we should expect public officials to obey the law.
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.
I want to thank Rockland County DA Thomas Zugibe and Spring Valley Police Department Chief Paul Modica for their assistance in this investigation.
Thanks as always to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, and, in this case, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Douglas Bloom and Alvin Bragg.
And finally, congratulations to the undercover FBI agent and Special Agents Tom Holmes and Bill McGrogan, Acting Supervisor Carl Catauro, and Supervisory Special Agent Pam McGovern for their outstanding work on this investigation.