GOP Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone steps down as bribery scandal grows

Posted: 8:42 PM, Apr 03, 2013
Updated: 2013-04-03 20:42:55-04

In the wake of arrests in the bribery and extortion case of State Senator Malcolm Smith, word is spreading about more charges or more arrests, as well as calls for political leaders who may be close to the case but not under arrest to step down.

One of the two main defendants in the case that led to the arrests of six politicos is Sen. Smith, who prosecutors say tried to use his influence and access to money to buy support from New York City GOP chairmen for a bid to become mayor.  Willing to help to secure that support, for a price, according to prosecutors, was the second main defendant.  Queens City Councilmember Dan Halloran accepted at least $20,000 in bribes in the case.

Nobody appeared to be at Halloran’s home in Flushing, Queens since the flamboyant legislator posted $250,000 bail Tuesday afternoon.  Late Wednesday morning, however, a man who resembled Halloran, possibly a relative, said nothing as he removed what appeared to be a rifle case from the home and placed it in his car.  One requirement for Halloran to be granted bail was that he turn in one of his two shotguns to authorities.  The councilmember’s other shotgun was seized by FBI agents when they arrested him early Tuesday morning.

By a variety of accounts, Halloran seems to be deeply in debt, and has used his home, which still has a campaign sign out front from his failed congressional race last year, as collateral.  It may have left him hundreds of thousands of dollars in the red.


Councilman Dan Halloran, actor Kelsey Grammer and Queens GOP Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone (From left to right).

Meanwhile, nobody was coming to the door at State Senator Smith’s home either.  Despite the inactivity at both men’s addresses, their case, and its effect on its four other defendants, is heating up.

According to the criminal complaint, Smith, a Democrat, had tried to arrange payments totaling six figures to secure the approvals of three of the five New York City GOP chairmen required for a person from another party to be placed on a party’s ballot.

The vice chairman of the GOP in Queens, Vincent Tabone, resigned from his position Wednesday morning, 24 hours after FBI agents arrested him in this case, in which he was accused of taking $40,000 in bribes.  At least one Queens Republican elected official, City Councilmember Eric Ulrich, on Wednesday called for Tabone’s boss, GOP Chair Phil Ragusa, to resign as well.  A spokesperson for the Queens GOP, Robert Hornak, played down the request to PIX11 News, and described the party’s position as strong.

Also free on $250,000 bail are the three other defendants in the case, including Bronx GOP Chairman Jay Savino, who is also accused of taking $40,000 in bribes.  The mayor of the village of Spring Valley, in Rockland County, Noramie Jasmin, and her deputy mayor, Joseph Desmaret, were also arrested by agents Tuesday morning.  Prosecutors say that the two Spring Valley leaders engineered a real estate scam in which Sen. Smith was also involved.

“You have to think we’re seeing the tip of the iceberg here,” Queens College political science professor Alexander Reichl told PIX11 News.  As a 17-year veteran instructor and author of the book Reconstructing Times Square, he’s a long-standing and well-informed observer of New York politics.

He pointed out that in many of the political corruption cases he’s observed over the years — and, he said, there have been quite a few — it’s not unusual for the cases to expand.  The Sen. Malcolm Smith case, Reichl said, may be no exception.

“In some cases [prosecutors] are using those other people as witnesses, as evidence to get at the bigger fish.”

The six defendants in the case are scheduled to return to court for their next hearing in the case on April 23rd.