Spring Valley may be miles from the bustle of New York City and the power brokers in the state Capitol, but two village leaders who put themselves right in the middle of those intersecting universes are now facing serious federal criminal fraud charges.
Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Deputy Mayor Joseph A. Desmaret were arrested early Tuesday by FBI agents as part of an alleged wide-ranging scheme to help a Democratic state senator from Queens gain the Republican nomination for New York City mayor.
That's strange enough, but to further the alleged plot, Jasmin and Desmaret are said to have rigged a land deal to build a community center in Spring Valley and to have colluded with bidders in exchange for tens of thousands in cash, and hopes of a slice of the profits. They "sold their votes" and wielded their influence over other village trustees, federal investigators said.
The two officials are accused of being part of a complex web of corruption that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan described as 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 up to Albany itself."
Jasmin and Desmaret should step down from their elective positions, as it's impossible they'll be able fulfill their roles on the five-member Village Board of Trustees as this trial proceeds.
The man said to be in the middle of all this was Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith. He's joined by Bronx Republican Party boss Joseph Savino, New York City Councilman Daniel Halloran III (R-Queens) and Queens deputy GOP leader Vincent Tabone, who, according to the federal complaint, were willing to sell their party line on the New York City mayoral ballot to Smith for the right price.
As part of the deal-making, Smith is accused of scheming to direct $500,000 in state transportation dollars to improve roads near the proposed development in Spring Valley.
Savino has other Rockland ties, too; his White Plains-based law firm had an $85,000 retainer with the Town of Clarkstown to handle tax challenge cases.
Although Savino's connections are not clear at this point, the Clarkstown board yesterday fired him. What kinds of services did his firm actually provide the town? Was there more to his work there? If leaders don't adequately answer these, and potentially other concerns, the feds would be wise to ask. There could be more to this, much more.
If these charges show us anything, it's that the so-called "corridor of corruption" -- from New York City to Albany -- could be wider than the investigators are letting on.