Joseph Desmaret, former deputy mayor of Spring Valley, pleaded guilty Jan. 30 in White Plains federal court to participating in a scheme in which he accepted more than $10,000 in exchange for his votes to sell village land and steer a state-funded transportation contract to a real estate development company.
The federal corruption probe that netted Desmaret also led to charges against Rockland resident Jay Savino, who handled some legal matters for the Town of Clarkstown, had a prestigious White Plains law firm and was Bronx Republican Party Chairman. Savino pleaded guilty in November 2013.
“Every politician needs to understand that they hold office to serve the public, not themselves, and that those who violate the trust placed in them by the people do so at the risk of ending their careers behind bars. Serving the public is a great privilege and it should be treated as such,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a written statement.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in 2013 revealed a corruption investigation that also included state Sen. Malcolm Smith and New York City Council member Dan Halloran. The complaint included Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Desmaret, and Savino and Queens County Republican Party Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone.
The charges included bribery, extortion, and wire and mail fraud.
The federal charges in Spring Valley dated back to incidents in 2011, when Jasmin, a Democrat, was alleged to have participated in a fraud scheme in which she would vote in favor of the sale of Spring Valley village-owned land to a company in exchange for an ownership interest in the company and to also steer New York State funds to the company for the real estate project.
The charges contended that Desmaret, also a Democrat, received cash payments in exchange for his vote on the land sale and helping to steer state funds to the project.
The federal complaint filed by the FBI states that a cooperating witness who pleaded guilty on March 11, 2013, provided information in the investigation. The land deal, according to complaint, dates back to a meeting in a Rockland County restaurant, where Jasmin is accused of describing her plan to obtain land through the village's eminent domain authority and then take bids from private developers to develop the property.
Desmaret is accused of meeting with the cooperating witness in a car in January 2012 and sought $20,000. Later, Jasmin met repeatedly with the cooperating witness at a hotel in Ramapo and in a car to work out details of a hidden partnership arrangement.
In Octoter 2012, undercover FBI agents began to take part in meeting posing a straw developers who would make presentations on the real estate development to the Spring Valley Village Board. While meeting with them, according to the federal complaint, Jasmin walked the straw developers through their cover stories on how they got involved with the project.
When the Village Board voted on the project on Oct. 23, 2012, according to the complaint, Jasmin did not disclose her true connection to the project and the developers. In 2013, Jasmin and Desmaret agreed to steer the FBI's witness and the undercover agents to state Sen. Malcolm A. Smith to obtain state funding.
The complaint detailed more than $10,000 worth of bribes obtained by Desmaret from Feb. 28, 2012 to March 6, 2013, and locations in Ramapo and White Plains. The complaint also detailed how Jasmin provided the cash and identity information or a relative who does not have the same last name to create a holding company that would be needed to make the illicit land deal happen.
Desmaret pleaded guilty Jan. 30 before U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Karas.