New York officials schemed to impact the 2013 mayoral race, telling people in a bribery plot that “money greases the wheels,” according to revelations in federal documents released today.
Prosecutors charged New York State Sen. Malcolm Smith and Queens Councilman Dan Halloran with wire fraud and bribery this morning, which could carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said the alleged plots, which included cash handed over outside a Manhattan restaurant on Valentine’s Day, were targeted toward Smith’s wishes to be the Republican candidate for mayor.
“Senator Malcolm Smith tried to bribe his way to a shot at Gracie Mansion,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. “Councilman Halloran essentially quarterbacked that drive.”
Smith allegedly arranged for about $40,000 to be paid to New York City Republican county leaders Vincent Tabone and Joseph Savino.
The officials who were bribed complained about paying children’s college tuition, debts and for vacation homes, according to court documents.
The FBI accuses Halloran of receiving about $20,500 in bribes to be the intermediary between Smith and the Republican county leaders.
Halloran also received about $18,300 in bribes to steer about $80,000 in Council funding to a company he thought was bribing him, the FBI said.
Agents also arrested the mayor and deputy mayor of Rockland County’s Village of Spring Valley, accusing them of receiving financial benefits in exchange for official acts.
“Today’s charges demonstrate, once again, that a show-me-the-money culture seems to pervade every level of New York government,” Bharara said. “The complaint describes an unappetizing smorgasbord of graft and greed involving six officials who together built a corridor of corruption.”
According to the FBI, Halloran said he wanted to get his “mortgage situation resolved” and expected to be named deputy police commissioner.
During the scheming, Halloran said, according to the FBI, “That’s politics. It’s all about how much. … You can’t do anything without the f—ing money.”
According to court documents, Smith said, about the payments, “Let’s just say they screwed you and me and said, you know, ‘I’m not doing anything.’ … When you screw somebody over money like that … you’re looking over your shoulder all the rest of your life.”
“Elected officials are called public servants because they are supposed to serve the people,” FBI assistant director in charge George Venizelos said today. “At a bare minimum, we should expect public officials to obey the law.”
Council Speaker Christine Quinn said that the allegations were referred 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.”