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Suspended Tamarac Mayor Mute During Arraignment

FT. LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – Suspended Tamarac Mayor Beth Flansbaum-Talabisco stood mute during her arraignment on public corruption charges on Monday.

When asked how she pled, Flansbaum-Talabisco did not answer Broward Circuit Judge Cynthia Imperato who entered a 'not guilty' plea on her behalf.

Remaining silent during an arraignment is a tactic sometimes used when a lawyer plans to seek dismissal of charges.

Flansbaum-Talabisco, 57, is charged with unlawful compensation, bribery, official misconduct and conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation. According to the State Attorney's Office, she secretly accepted $21,000 from developers Bruce and Shawn Chait to support her 2006 campaign.

In exchange for the contribution, the state claims she reportedly voted favorably for the Chaits' company, Prestige Homes, which wanted to build more than 700 homes on two former golf courses near Florida's Turnpike and Commercial Boulevard while avoiding paying big money in development fees to the city and Broward School District.

Flansbaum-Talabisco was not the only Tamarac politician to be arrested in connection with Chaits.

Former city commissioner Marc Sultanof was also charged last year with six felony counts for reportedly accepting $30,000 from the Chaits in exchange for his commission votes on their project.

The Broward State Attorney's Office charged Sultanof, 89, with three counts of official misconduct, one count of bribery, one count of unlawful compensation and one count of conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation.

According to his arrest affidavit, Sultanof received money from the Chaits between March 2006 through January 2007. His improper relationship with the Chaits reportedly continued through November 2008. He reportedly used the bribe to help pay for a 2006 Honda Accord.

Also implicated in the Chaits corruption probe are suspended Broward School Board member Stephanie Kraft and her husband Mitch.

The Krafts are charged with unlawful compensation, bribery and conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation. Stephanie Kraft is also charged with official misconduct. Both have pled not guilty.
According to the Broward State Attorney's Office, the charges stem from illegal assistance that the Krafts gave to the Chaits who pled guilty last year to Unlawful Compensation charges of their own. Both were sentenced to probation.

According to the Broward State Attorney's Office the Chaits hired Mitch Kraft to help them get schools-required development fees for one of their building projects effectively reduced by $500,000. Investigators found Stephanie Kraft then pushed school staff to put the reduced development fee that her husband helped arrange onto the school boards' "consent" agenda.

Prosecutors say the Chait's hired Mitch Kraft to help them, considering it "insurance that nothing would go wrong," according to the arrest affidavit for the Kraft's. They paid him $10,000.

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