Authorities say the mayor of Hallandale Beach has been arrested on corruption charges following an undercover FBI investigation. The Broward State Attorney’s Office confirmed in a news release Thursday.
57-year-old Cooper, the long-serving mayor of Hallandale Beach, south of Fort Lauderdale, was charged with three felonies Thursday.
The charge complaint alleges that she met with wealthy land developers, actually undercover FBI agents, pretending to seek political favor for a project in Hallandale Beach.
She tis accused of soliciting, $10,000 in political campaign contributions from them. At the timeof the bust she had accepted $5,000, funneled to her through disgraced lawyer and political influencer, Alan Koslow.
The decoy developers 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.
Joy cooper was released from jail Thursday after posting bond
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. Addressing gathered media, her attorney Davis, said: “We have no further comment at this point. We’ll see you guys in court,” Davis told the media. “Thanks very much.”
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 reportedly, began in 2012 and was turned over to state prosecutors in May 2017.
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, reassuring undercover agents he had influence with the mayor and city commissioners and that he “had the vote of the mayor,” the records show.
Crucially Mayor Cooper was recorded during a meeting at City Hall on July 10, 2012 with the developers and Koslow, saying that she and two other commissioners were a “team of three” and could ensure a favorable result for their project.
“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, disgraced lawyer and lobbyst Alan 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.
High-flying lobbyist and lawyer Alan Koslow, [right], was convicted in Aug 2016, on money laundering charges. He admitted to be being part of the scheme
Super lobbyist and lawyer Alan Koslow, formerly a partner at the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff was convicted in Aug 2016, on money laundering charges
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 at a meeting Oct. 3, 2012, with them and Koslow at the Flashback Diner, court documents state. She said one of the checks had bounced.
Koslow allegedly met at least 75 times with four different FBI agents between September 2013 and May 2016, investigators said.
In a worst case scenario for Cooper, Koslow, 63, 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.
Cooper’s arrest is the latest stain on Hallandale Beach, 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, Commissioners Keith London and Michele Lazarow, sent a letter to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, demanding he removes her from office, 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.
The felony charges are money laundering, official misconduct and exceeding campaign contribution limits. Prosecutors say Cooper, a Democrat, also is charged with the misdemeanor soliciting contributions in a government building.
The felonies carry maximum prison sentences of five years. The misdemeanor has a maximum one-year prison term.
Cooper has been Hallandale Beach mayor since 2005 and previously served on the city commission beginning in 1999.