Update: Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, issued an executive order Friday suspending Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper from her position after she was charged with felony counts of money laundering, exceeding campaign contribution limits, and official misconduct
The Democrat Mayor of Hallandale Beach, Florida, Joy Cooper respectively, surrendered to the authorities last Thursday on third degree felony charges of official misconduct, money laundering and exceeding limits on campaign contributions. The Mayor is also charged with a misdemeanor, i.e. soliciting contributions in the City Hall. Each of the three felonies carries a maximum 5 year prison sentence.
According to law enforcement, the FBI investigation on Mayor Cooper began back in May 2012, with undercover agents pretending to be wealthy real estate developers from California and looking for political favors from the Mayor in exchange for a Hallandale Beach project. A disbarred attorney from Hollywood (Alan Koslow) was hired by the FBI agents to represent them, and he funneled five thousand dollars in campaign contributions to Mayor Cooper, in the form of, check this out, “checks from a bunch of Russian names”, as per court documents. The attorney was not aware at the time that the real estate developers were undercover FBI agents, nor that he himself was a target in the sting operation.
According to court records, the 63 year old lawyer finally accepted to wear a wire as part of the FBI sting operation. As per the arrest affidavit, the Hollywood lawyer was recorded during a July 10, 2012 meeting between him, the undercover FBI agents and Mayor Cooper at City Hall as saying that Cooper and 2 other commissioners were, let me quote, “a team of three”, who could make the real-estate project happen:
“Alan Koslow showed Mayor Cooper a number representing a proposed contribution and asked her if it was a good number. She replied ‘No. Add a zero.” Koslow confirmed ‘Three zeros, is that fine?’ and Mayor Cooper replied ‘Yes,’
A few weeks later, the lawyer assured Mayor Cooper that she’ll get a bribe in the form of two $5,000 campaign contributions, before and after the 2012 primary. In August 2012, the lawyer and the undercover FBI agents met with the Florida Mayor at her home then drove to Koslow’s house and presented him with a bag containing $8,000 in cash. The lawyer told the FBI agents he’ll have 2 Russian organizations write checks for them.
During a recorded meeting at the Flashback Diner on Aug. 20, 2012, one of the undercover agents told Cooper that “the pledged payment to her, via her campaign, would be in the form of checks from a ‘bunch of Russian names,’” according to court documents.
In September, Koslow told one of the agents he had personally handed 20 checks to Cooper at a Hallandale Beach Chamber of Commerce fashion show, court records say. The checks, totaling $5,000, were broken down into smaller amounts that appeared to come from people with Russian last names, according to the documents. Cooper said “that’s fantastic” when she got the checks, according to what Koslow told the undercover agents.
Cooper’s campaign reported nine contributions from eight teachers and a retired person in the amount of $500 each, matching names on a list of donors Koslow had given the so-called developers, the affidavit said.
Mayor Cooper’s attorney Larry Davis criticized the FBI for using the former Hollywood lawyer in their sting operation:
“We look forward to our day in court and the mayor’s vindication. We’re extremely disappointed that the Broward County State Attorney’s Office is relying upon Alan Koslow, a disgraced and disbarred convicted felon, as the centerpiece of its case of alleged campaign finance violations.”
The FBI operation/investigation was concluded and the case handed to state prosecutors in May last year. It’s not clear yet whether Mayor Cooper will be removed from office by Governor Rick Scott “as he customarily does when an elected official has been arrested“.