Gov. Rick Scott suspends Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper

Cooper's dealings with disgraced lobbyist result in felonies, authorities say

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Florida Gov. Rick Scott suspended Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper on Friday afternoon, one day after her arrest on three felony charges.

Cooper faces charges of money laundering, official misconduct and exceeding limits on campaign contributions, all of which are third-degree felonies. Prosecutors also charged her with soliciting contributions in a government building, which is a first-degree misdemeanor.

"Joy 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 said

According to the Broward County state attorney's office, FBI agents posing as developers and business owners met with Cooper and former attorney and lobbyist Alan Koslow, who pleaded guilty to a federal money-laundering conspiracy charge in a case with the FBI that was part of their "Red Chip" sting operation to target political corruption in South Florida. 

Investigator Kate Abrahamsen wrote in the arrest affidavit that Cooper solicited campaign contributions from Koslow that exceeded the legal limit, accepted money that she believed were the proceeds of unlawful activity and falsified campaign treasury reports in September and October of 2012. 

Abrahmsen said Koslow was unaware that the wealthy California land developers seeking political favor for commercial land projects were really undercover FBI agents.

According to the affidavit, Koslow introduced the undercover agents to Cooper, who claimed that she and then-Commissioners Bill Julian and Anthony Sanders were a "team of three" who could "ensure a favorable result" for the land project. Koslow showed Cooper a proposed dollar figure and asked her if it was a good number, to which she replied, "No. Add a zero."

It was one of the many recorded conversations involving Cooper, Koslow and the undercover agents, authorities said.

Abrahamsen said the undercover agents gave Koslow a Dunkin' Donuts bag containing $8,000 in cash -- all $100 bills -- with the understanding that he would funnel the money to Cooper and the commissioners.

According to the affidavit, one of the undercover agents met with Cooper at the Flashback Diner and pledged that the contributions to Cooper's campaign would be in the form of checks from a "bunch of Russian names." Koslow later told an undercover agent that he personally handed Cooper 20 checks at a Hallandale Beach Chamber of Commerce fashion show.

During an October 2012 meeting with Koslow and the undercover agents at the Flashback Diner, Cooper told the agents, "You guys have been great," acknowledging the payment, the affidavit said.

Cooper's attorney, Larry Davis, said he is extremely disappointed in the state attorney's office for relying on Koslow, who was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison. Cooper, who walked out of jail Thursday night, said she was going to "vigorously" fight the accusations.

"My mom will be vindicated, I'm sure," Cooper's son told Local 10 News investigative reporter Bob Norman.

About the Authors:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.