Suspended Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi says he “accepted no money inappropriately or illegally from anyone,” suggesting any funds he received during an FBI undercover sting were above board. Yet, if he took $6,000 in cash — whether for kickbacks as alleged, or for any other reason — he did not publicly disclose a penny of it on campaign finance reports.
Pizzi’s mayoral campaign report shows he accepted three checks totaling $750 from two Chicago consultants and a businessman named “Steve Phillips.” In reality, all three donors were fictitious creations of a two-year FBI undercover operation. But none of the $6,000 in cash that a criminal complaint accuses Pizzi of pocketing was reported by his mayoral campaign or a Miami Lakes political action committee he supported.
Last week, Pizzi, 51, was arrested on charges of accepting $6,750 in kickbacks as a quid pro quo for using his official positions as Miami Lakes mayor and Medley town attorney to promote federal grant applications meant only to enrich him and others.
He was charged with conspiring to commit extortion with Miami-Dade lobbyist Richard Candia. Candia was also charged with the same offense in a separate complaint accusing Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Maroño and lobbyist Jorge Forte of receiving kickbacks. Both mayors have been suspended from office by the governor.
On his mayoral campaign report for January through March 2012, Pizzi listed a $250 check from “Steve Phillips.’’ But the check did not show an address for Phillips. It would have been difficult to find an address, as Phillips is not a real person. Campaign reports require addresses for each donor.