State Senator Malcom Smith, a Democrat, is accused of trying to bribe officials in New York City's Republican party establishment to let him run for mayor as a Republican.
It is easier for Republicans to get onto mayoral ballots in the city since there are far fewer Republican candidates in the heavily Democratic city, with many more contenders on the Democratic side.
Charged Tuesday were Republican New York City Councilman Dan Halloran; Bronx County Republican Party Chairman Joseph Savino, 45; Queens County Republican Party Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone, 46; Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin, 49; and Spring Valley Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret, 55. If convicted of conspiracy, wire fraud and violation of the Hobbs Act, Smith could face up to 45 years in prison. Charges of conspiracy and two counts of wire fraud against Halloran carry the same potential penalty. Tabone and Savino were each charged with conspiracy and wire fraud, which carry up to 25 years in prison upon conviction. Jasmin and Desmaret were charged with mail fraud, which carries a potential penalty of 20 years in prison.
Charges in the case include bribery, extortion, and wire and mail fraud.
In court papers, the FBI detailed meetings aimed at benefiting Smith that began in November and recounted numerous meetings among the defendants, an undercover FBI agent and a cooperating witness, who pleaded guilty to federal charges last month in a deal aimed at winning leniency at sentencing.
In one conversation, the FBI said, Halloran was soliciting funding for his congressional campaign in September when he agreed to hire someone of the cooperating witness's choosing for a congressional staff position in return for a cash contribution, saying: "That's politics, that's politics, it's all about how much. Not about whether or will, it's about how much, and that's our politicians in New York, they're all like that, all like that. And they get like that because of the drive that the money does for everything else. You can't do anything without the ... money."
Smith, first elected to the Senate in 2000, has served as minority and majority leader, as well as president pro tempore and acting lieutenant governor. He serves on the state Senate's transportation committee and is vice chairman of its finance committee.
An effort by Smith to run as a Republican is not unprecedented. Mayor Michael Bloomberg switched from the Democratic to Republican parties shortly before his first successful run for mayor in 2001. The path is attractive to candidates because it is easier to get on the ballot for the Republican mayoral primary in a city crowded with Democratic politicians.
Smith, however, could not run as a Republican without the written consent of three of the city's five Republican Party county chairmen, who were scheduled to meet on Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.