Mayor Joy Cooper of Hallandale Beach, Florida was arrested on public corruption charges after she allegedly received illegal campaign contributions from undercover FBI agents.
Cooper faces felony charges of official misconduct, money laundering, and exceeding campaign contribution limits, as well as a misdemeanor for soliciting contributions in a government building. She surrendered to authorities and was released from Broward Jail after posting bail.
According to the state attorney’s office, the undercover FBI agents who gave Cooper the illegal campaign contributions posed as wealthy developers and business owners. They reportedly met the mayor through former attorney and lobbyist Alan Koslow.
Koslow introduced Cooper to the agents at City Hall when he himself was under investigation for money laundering. He allegedly told the agents that he had Cooper’s vote. The pair reportedly met with the agents on multiple occasions to discuss a business project in the city.
Cooper purportedly told the agents that she can ensure approval of their project. When Koslow suggested an amount to be paid to her campaign in exchange for her vote, Cooper allegedly said, “add a zero.” They ultimately agreed on $10,000, but with contribution limits set at $1,000, Cooper agreed to allow Koslow to launder the money for her, according to court records.
The agents gave Koslow the cash in a paper bag. He then gave Cooper 20 bogus checks at a Chamber of Commerce event, which she deposited into her campaign account.
Investigators said all the meetings were secretly recorded.
“Mayor Cooper has devoted herself to public service and the city of Hallandale Beach for the past two decades,” attorney Larry Davis told news sources. “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.”
Koslow was arrested in June 2016 for allegedly laundering $220,000 linked to gambling and illegal drug dealing. He was reportedly paid by undercover FBI agents to launder large sums of money through his business bank account in Fort Lauderdale.
The former attorney allegedly agreed to the deal because he thought he was helping criminals conceal sources of money unlawfully earned from drug sales and gambling. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in prison on a federal money laundering-conspiracy charge.
Cooper has served as Hallandale Beach mayor since 2005 and previously served on the city commission. Governor Rick Scott signed an executive order suspending Cooper on Friday afternoon.
“Cooper is prohibited from performing any official act, duty, or function of public office; from receiving any pay or allowance; and from being entitled to any of the emoluments or privileges of public office during the period of this suspension,” Scott’s order says.
Despite the turmoil caused by Cooper’s arrest, City Manager Roger Carlton assured residents that city services will continue as usual and that the city is financially sound. He doubts Governor Scott will have to step in.