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Tabone surrenders to federal prison

By Sadef Ali Kully

Former Queens GOP Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone, who was convicted of fraud, bribery and witness tampering, joined fellow co-conspirator former state Sen. Malcolm Smith last Friday in a Pennsylvania federal prison, according to U.S. Bureau of Prisons records.

The records showed Tabone was registered inmate number 68385-054 at the federal prison Lewisberg in Pa. He followed Smith to do time for his role in an elaborate scheme to get Smith, a former Democratic majority leader in Albany, a spot on the Republican line in the November 2013 mayoral race.

Lewisburg is a high-security federal facility that houses a total of 1,785 inmates.

In July, Tabone was sentenced to 31/2 years in prison and one year of parole for bribery, fraud and witness tampering by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas, who presided over the four-week political corruption trial in February in federal court in White Plains.

In the bribery and fraud caper that took place from November 2012 through April 2013, Smith, Tabone and former City Councilman Daniel Halloran participated in two overlapping corruption plots that involved the payment of bribes to obtain a Wilson-Pakula certificate, a way to run for office on another party line. Halloran, who represented northeast Queens, has begun serving a 10-year prison term, following his conviction in a separate trial.

Smith was first elected to the state Senate in November 2000 in the district covering Jamaica and surrounding neighborhoods. He served as the Senate’s minority and majority leader and acting lieutenant governor.

Tabone accepted a $25,000 bribe in a dimly lit SUV parked in front of a Manhattan restaurant and agreed to take another $25,000 after his committee authorized Smith to compete in the Republican primary. Joseph Savino, the chairman of the Bronx Republican Party similarly accepted a $15,000 cash bribe and agreed to accept another $15,000 after he voted to authorize Smith to compete for the Republican ticket, trial testimony showed. In return for his efforts in negotiating the bribes, Halloran took $15,500 as a down payment and expected to be appointed first deputy mayor if Smith was elected mayor.

Additionally, Tabone was convicted of witness tampering when he attempted to persuade former Queens County Republican Party Chairman Philip Ragusa not to testify against him.

He authorized the payment of $110,000 in cash bribes for Queens Republican Party leaders, including Tabone, to allow him to run for mayor on the Republican ticket, according to testimony at the trial. Smith also agreed to use his influence to help steer almost $500,000 in state funds to an undercover FBI agent and a cooperating witness for a real estate project in Spring Valley in exchange for paying bribes on his behalf.

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.

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