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How a Dunkin’ Donuts bag full of cash led to the downfall of a Florida mayor

How a Dunkin’ Donuts bag full of cash led to the downfall of a Florida mayor

Postby smix » Sun Jan 28, 2018 12:54 pm

Mayor sought illegal funds for political allies, records allege
Sun Sentinel

URL: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/browa ... story.html
Category: Crime
Published: January 26, 2018

Description: Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper, who was removed from office Friday after being snared in an FBI sting, solicited illegal campaign contributions not only for herself but for two political allies, court documents say. Gov. Rick Scott suspended Cooper on Friday, a day after she was arrested and accused of accepting contributions funneled through Alan Koslow, a once prominent attorney who has since been disbarred after a conviction on federal charges. In August 2012, undercover agents handed Koslow a Dunkin’ Donuts bag filled with $8,000 in cash – all in $100 bills, investigators said in court records. Former commissioner Bill Julian received two $500 checks for his campaign, but there was no indication he knew they were illegal, according to the arrest affidavit. “People stop me and ask what’s going on,” Julian said Friday of Cooper’s arrest. “I tell them I only know what I read in the news.” Cooper also solicited funds for former commissioner Anthony Sanders, court records show, but they do not say whether Sanders received illegal checks. Sanders resigned in August after being accused by the Broward Inspector General of using his elected position for financial gain. He was accused of voting to award nearly $1 million to a nonprofit that made monthly payments to his church and family. Sanders told the South Florida Sun Sentinel he was not aware of any backroom dealings involving Cooper. He and Julian often voted in tandem with Cooper, leaving their political foes Keith London and Michele Lazarow on the losing side of many decisions. Cooper, 57, has been charged with money laundering, official misconduct and exceeding the limit on campaign finance contributions -- felony charges that each carry a maximum five-year sentence. She also has been charged with soliciting contributions in a government building, a first-degree misdemeanor with a one-year maximum sentence. Cooper, mayor since 2005, said Thursday in a prepared statement, “I can assure you that I will vigorously fight these allegations in court.” She could not be reached Friday for further comment despite calls to her cellphone and to her husband. According to a high-ranking official at City Hall, Cooper cleared out her office the night before reporting to the Main Jail in downtown Fort Lauderdale on Thursday morning. She was released Thursday night. Developer Eric Fordin said he was shocked by Cooper’s arrest because she “has always been so aboveboard. I recall her writing a check for $2.45 for a soda at the grand opening of one of our hotels because she could not accept a drink.” Fordin, who left The Related Group for Mast Capital last year, said he has never been pressured by Cooper or any other Hallandale Beach politician for campaign contributions. But court records paint a different picture of Cooper. The mayor met with people she thought were wealthy developers from California, court documents say. They were actually undercover FBI agents pretending to seek political favor for a project in Hallandale Beach. Koslow told the undercover agents he had influence with the city commission and “had the vote of the mayor,” court documents show. Koslow declined to comment Friday. The agents met with Cooper and Koslow over several months in 2012 and secretly recorded their meetings, court records say. Koslow did not become aware his developer pals were FBI agents until August 2013, when they confronted him in a Fort Lauderdale hotel room, records show. During a meeting in July 2012 between Cooper, the undercover agents and Koslow, Cooper was recorded saying she and two other commissioners were a “team of three” and could ensure a favorable result for their project, according to the arrest affidavit. The meeting took place in City Hall. “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,’” according to the arrest affidavit. Later that month, Koslow told Cooper she would receive $10,000 in the form of two $5,000 contributions – one before the August 2012 primary and one after, the records state. Koslow told them he’d arrange for individuals to write personal checks to Cooper and Julian in the amount of $500 each, the records show. Two of seven people who wrote checks said they got cash back for writing the checks, records say. Five claimed they did not recall. In September, Koslow told one of the agents he’d personally handed 20 checks totaling $5,000 to Cooper at a Hallandale Beach Chamber of Commerce fashion show, court records say. “That’s fantastic,” Cooper told Koslow when he turned over the checks, according to what he 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. “You guys have been great,” Cooper told the undercover agents during a meeting with Koslow at the Flashback Diner on Oct. 3, 2012, court documents state. She told them one of the checks had bounced. Koslow gave a sworn statement in November 2017 confirming he participated in the events disclosed in the arrest affidavit. With Cooper suspended, Vice Mayor Keith London will serve as the acting mayor on a five-member commission that now has two vacancies. London was out of town Friday and could not be reached for comment.



Hallandale mayor freed from jail after arrest in FBI sting
Sun Sentinel

URL: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/browa ... story.html
Category: Crime
Published: January 26, 2018

Description: Longtime Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper has been freed from jail after her arrest in a public corruption case linked to disbarred Hollywood attorney Alan Koslow. Cooper, 57, was charged with three felonies Thursday, accused of meeting with wealthy land developers who were actually undercover FBI agents pretending to seek political favor for a project in Hallandale Beach. She is alleged to have solicited and accepted $5,000 in political campaign contributions from them that were funneled to her through Koslow, court records show. The agents met with Cooper and Koslow over the course of several months in 2012 as part of a public corruption sting and the meetings were all recorded on audio or video, court records say. Cooper, who turned herself in to jail officials Thursday morning, was charged with money laundering, official misconduct and exceeding the limit on campaign finance contributions. Each carries a maximum five-year prison sentence. She also has been charged with soliciting contributions in a government building, a first-degree misdemeanor with a maximum one-year sentence. “We look forward to our day in court and the mayor’s vindication,” said her attorney, Larry Davis. “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.”



Cooper, wearing a black dress, walked out of the downtown Fort Lauderdale jail on Thursday evening after posting $12,000 bond just before 7 p.m. She briefly stopped in front of the TV news cameras, and let Davis, who was standing next to her, speak on her behalf. “We have no further comment at this point. We’ll see you guys in court,” Davis told the media. “Thanks very much.” Cooper didn’t comment, but nodded as Davis spoke. A few steps from the jail, Davis opened a car door for Cooper. She got into the car’s back seat to be driven away. Koslow, 63, was considered one of the most effective and best-known attorneys and lobbyists in the state, specializing in representing developers and the gaming industry. He pleaded guilty in August 2016 to helping people prosecutors said he thought were "quasi-mafia" criminals hide the source of $220,000 linked to illegal gambling and drug dealing. The FBI’s sting began in 2012 and was turned over to state prosecutors in May 2017, said Constance Simmons, a spokeswoman for the Broward State Attorney’s Office. Undercover FBI agents, posing as land developers from California “seeking political favor” for development projects, hired Koslow to represent them, court records show. “At this time, Alan Koslow was unaware that he was interacting with undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agents,” investigators wrote. Cooper, mayor since 2005, and Koslow were secretly recorded during numerous meetings and conversations, court documents show. Koslow had told the undercover agents he had influence with the mayor and city commissioners and that he “had the vote of the mayor,” the records show. During a meeting July 10, 2012 between Cooper, the undercover agents and Koslow at City Hall, Cooper was recorded saying that she and two other commissioners were a “team of three” and could ensure a favorable result for their project, according to the arrest affidavit. “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,’” according to the arrest affidavit. Later that month, Koslow told Cooper she would receive $10,000 in the form of two $5,000 contributions – one before the August 2012 primary and one after, the records state. In August 2012, Koslow and the agents went to Cooper’s home. After that meeting, the agents went to Koslow’s home and gave him a Dunkin’ Donuts bag that contained $8,000 in cash, investigators said in court records. Koslow had told the agents he would have two Russian organizations write checks for them, investigators wrote. 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. “You guys have been great,” Cooper told the undercover agents during a meeting with Koslow at the Flashback Diner on Oct. 3, 2012, court documents state. She told them one of the checks had bounced. According to federal court records, Koslow met at least 75 times with four different FBI agents between September 2013 and May 2016, though what he did remains secret because of continuing investigations. Koslow gave a sworn statement to investigators Nov. 9, 2017 – after he was released from federal prison and a halfway house – acknowledging that he participated in all of the recorded events. The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment Thursday and referred all questions to the Broward State Attorney’s Office, which declined to provide details on the investigation. It was unclear Thursday whether Gov. Rick Scott would remove Cooper from office, as he customarily does when an elected official has been arrested. “These charges are unacceptable,” said Lauren Schenone, a spokeswoman for Scott. “We are reviewing our next course of action.” Under the city charter, Vice Mayor Keith London would become the acting mayor and a special election would be held later this year to fill the seat. London was out of town Thursday but submitted this statement via email: “Today is a day when Hallandale Beach residents, elected officials and staff must come together. I am committed to working with all of our city’s stakeholders to move Hallandale Beach in a positive direction.” Cooper’s arrest is the latest stain on a city that continually finds itself embroiled in controversy. Former Commissioner Anthony Sanders stepped down last year after being accused of misconduct by the Broward Inspector General. In November, Cooper’s political rivals — London and Commissioner Michele Lazarow — sent a letter to Gov. Scott asking him to remove her from office. Their letter came two days after Cooper slurred her words at a commission meeting and appeared to be under the influence of “some behavior-altering substance,” the letter said. Cooper said she was not drunk or on meds but severely dehydrated after contracting diarrhea during a trip to Mexico. More than a year ago, London, Lazarow and Anabelle Taub — who was running for commission at the time and later won election — accused Cooper and other political rivals of spying on them. Just two weeks before the city’s November 2016 election, London found a GPS tracker on his car. Similar tracking devices were found on cars owned by Lazarow and Taub. At the time, Cooper questioned whether London, Lazarow and Taub planted the trackers on their own cars as a political stunt. Cooper was first elected to the Hallandale commission in 1999. Last year, she said she would not run again when her term is up in November 2020. Later, after a fierce debate with London, she said she’d changed her mind.
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How a Dunkin’ Donuts bag full of cash led to the downfall of a Florida mayor

Postby smix » Sun Jan 28, 2018 1:16 pm

How a Dunkin’ Donuts bag full of cash led to the downfall of a Florida mayor
The Washington Post

URL: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/pol ... ida-mayor/
Category: Crime
Published: January 27, 2018

Description: On Thursday, Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper vowed to “vigorously fight” corruption accusations, including the claim that she was on the receiving end of a Dunkin’ Donuts bag filled with $8,000 in soon-to-be-laundered cash. A day earlier, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, she had cleaned out her city hall office, then reported to the jail in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Cooper, a 57-year-old Democrat who has been mayor of the city 20 miles north of Miami since 2005, is charged with several corruption charges: money laundering, official misconduct and exceeding the limit on campaign finance contributions — all felonies that carry a maximum five-year prison sentence each. She’s also accused of soliciting contributions in a government building — that same now-vacant city hall office. Cooper did not address a phalanx of reporters as she left jail Thursday, but she defended herself in a statement: “I have dedicated my time and energy to focus on performing all of my duties with utmost integrity. . . . I can assure you that I will vigorously fight these allegations in court.” Her attorney, Larry Davis, told reporters Cooper “never accepted any money, anything that went into her pocket. She never accepted a campaign contribution for any quid pro quo, for any developer, anybody in her 20 years of public life.” He told Fox News that Cooper plans to plead not guilty. On Friday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) suspended Cooper, prohibiting her from “performing any official act, duty, or function of public office.” Cooper’s fortunes have tumbled along with those of Alan Koslow, who the Sun-Sentinel called “one of the most effective and best-known attorneys and lobbyists in the state.” Last August, Koslow pleaded guilty to hiding the source of $220,000 in illegal gambling and drug dealing. His clients in the case, prosecutors said, were “quasi-mafia figures.” But years before that plea, investigators had used Koslow in a sting operation: one that netted Cooper. In 2012, Koslow was contacted by people who he thought were wealthy land developers from California who were “seeking political favor” for projects in Hallandale Beach, according to court documents posted by Miami ABC-affiliate WPLG. But the “developers” were really undercover FBI agents. And over the next few months, they recorded their interactions with Koslow and the politician he said they could influence with a few well-placed dollars: Cooper. In June 2012, he told the “developers” that he “had the vote of the Mayor in the City of Hallandale and if they supported the Mayor’s ’causes’ she would favorably view their projects,” according to the court documents. Three days later Koslow allegedly arranged a meeting with the mayor in her office. The “developers” said they were looking for a suitable site in the city. The mayor offered up more than her own support, according to the documents. She said she and two other commissioners were a “team of three” that could “encourage a favorable result for the development project.” Former city commissioner Bill Julian received two $500 checks for his campaign, but there was no indication he knew they were illegal, according to the arrest affidavit, the Sun-Sentinel reported. The role of another commissioner, Anthony Sanders, was unclear. He stepped down last year after a report by the Broward County inspector general found that he had used his position to funnel $1 million to a nonprofit group that made monthly payments to a church he founded and paid his immediate family. Sanders and Julian could not be reached by The Washington Post for comment. Before arrangements could be made, Koslow and Cooper and the “developers” discussed payment, the court documents said. At one point, Koslow showed Cooper a number, a proposed campaign contribution, and asked if it was good. “No. Add a zero,” she replied, according to the court documents. Koslow arranged to launder the money in a way that would skirt laws that put caps on campaign contributions, according to court documents. He’d funnel the bulk to Cooper, the documents say, and donate some to Sanders and Julian. The developers came to his house with $8,000 in cash — a Dunkin’ Donuts bag stuffed with $100 bills. A short time later, Koslow handed 10 checks, $500 apiece, to Cooper at a fashion show put on by the Hallandale Chamber of Commerce. Cooper’s campaign recorded that the money was donated by several “teachers” and one retired person, all with Russian last names. He even detailed a final meeting, on Oct. 3, after the donations. Koslow, Cooper and the “developers” met at the Flash Back Diner, according to court documents. “You guys have been great,” she allegedly told them. More than five years passed between those alleged interactions and statements and Cooper’s arrest. That’s because after the 2012 election, according to the Tampa Bay Times, investigators focused their efforts on Koslow, who was accused of laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal gambling and drug proceeds, and had a deep web of political connections. Agents eventually revealed who they were to Koslow, but didn’t arrest him. Instead, they used him to investigate other lobbyists and politicians, the Times reported. On Nov. 9, he provided a sworn testimony about the alleged campaign finance scheme with Cooper, and investigators reignited the case. But Davis, Cooper’s attorney, criticized the Broward State’s Attorney’s Office reliance on “a disgraced and disbarred convicted felon,” the Times reported.
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