The Democratic mayor of Hallandale Beach, Florida, has been arrested on charges of three counts of debasement allegations following an undercover FBI investigation, reports The New York Post. Looks like another Democratic lawmaker may be taken out of office due to corruption.
The Broward State Attorney’s Office said in a news release Thursday that Mayor Joy Cooper has surrendered to the charges, but it wasn’t immediately clear if she has a lawyer to represent her.
The felony charges she has are money laundering, official misconduct, tax evasion, and exceeding campaign contribution limits. Prosecutors say Cooper is also charged with the misdemeanor soliciting contributions in a government building.
Court records show that Koslow was given a Dunkin’ Donuts sack loaded with $8,000 in real money by covert specialists August 2012 as an undercover operation, reports The Sun Sentinel.
Cooper has also been found to have solicited funds for former commissioner Anthony Sanders, court records show, but they do not say whether Sanders received checks.
Each of the felony charges carries a maximum five-year sentencing, and the first-degree misdemeanor carries a one-year maximum sentence.
Cooper has been the mayor since 2005 and hasn’t commented on the charges except for a prepared 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.”
Some who have worked with Cooper say they are surprised by Cooper’s arrest, like Developer Eric Fordin, who said 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 the court documents show a different picture of the Democratic mayor.
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, reports the Sun Sentinel.
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 insure a favorable result for their project, according to the arrest affidavit. The meeting took place at 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 on July 2012, 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 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.
“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.