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Malcolm Smith jurors hear FBI secret tapes detailing how to hide bribes

Queens Senator Malcolm Smith arrives at U.S. District

Queens Senator Malcolm Smith arrives at U.S. District Court in White Plains for jury selection for his fraud and bribery trial on June 2, 2014 in White Plains. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Jurors at the corruption trial of Queens state Sen. Malcolm Smith received blunt tutorials Wednesday in subjects like Political Spoils and How to Hide a Payoff 101 as they spent a fourth day listening to secret tapes recorded by an FBI undercover agent working deals with New York City pols.

On one tape, former Republican City Councilman Dan Halloran, charged with Smith in a bribery conspiracy to win the Democratic senator a spot on the 2013 GOP mayoral ballot, laid out a laundry list of demands that started with a job for someone with a resume identical to his own.

"Obviously this is not a quid pro quo," he told the agent. " . . . But I think it would be wise for Malcolm to . . . make sure his first deputy mayor, the one who's in charge of operations, is a Republican member of the City Council currently who understands what's going on at City Hall right now."

Halloran noted that might be "somebody in this room" and then said in addition he would expect half of 115 top agency appointments and judges to be Republicans, as well as control over agencies that regulate development and public safety.

"While I'm not requiring, it would probably be a good idea to start out with [NYPD Commissioner] Ray Kelly," Halloran told the agent, who posed as a wealthy developer named "Raj" who was spreading money around to buy support for Smith.

Smith, a former Senate majority leader, and Halloran are accused of working with the FBI agent and an informant to bribe Republican county chairmen to get Smith permission to cross party lines and run in the GOP primary.

Former Queens Republican official Vincent Tabone, a co-defendant, is charged with taking a $25,000 bribe, and former Bronx GOP leader Joseph Savino pleaded guilty to bribe-taking.

In other tapes played Wednesday in federal court in White Plains, Savino and Smith discussed the variety of creative ways to clothe political payoffs as something else.

Savino advised the FBI operatives and Halloran that he had a law firm that could be retained, but also said he had an insurance agency that could be a handy conduit.

"I was brought up in an insurance agency family," he said. "Everybody has a brother, nephew that does insurance. I'm just offering ideas."

At a later meeting with Smith, when the agents laid out their plan for payoffs, he suggested retainers for accounting or legal services, advising them that legal campaign spending had to be disclosed and violations could trigger intense investigations. "It's easy -- it's easy to handle," he said. "You got a business relationship with them, period. How nice, how nice they feel after your business relationship!"

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