Former Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Maroño and lobbyist Jorge Forte appear to be laying the groundwork to plead guilty to a fraud conspiracy, stemming from their pocketing thousands of dollars in kickbacks while seeking federal grants in an FBI sting operation.
On Friday, they will be arraigned in Miami federal court on a single charge of conspiring to commit honest services fraud. The charge, filed Thursday in a so-called information instead of an indictment, is a tell-tale sign that the two defendants are cooperating with the U.S. attorney’s office.
While they plan to plead not guilty to the conspiracy charge Friday, they are expected to change their initial plea to guilty at a later date. The charge, which accuses them of illegally receiving cash for official favors and concealing those payments from the public, carries up to five years in prison.
“From the beginning, we have said that we have placed our trust in the criminal justice system to resolve this matter,” Forte’s criminal defense attorney, David Weinstein, said Thursday. “Jorge Forte deeply regrets his involvement in this case. He will do everything he can to make up for it.”
Maroño’s defense attorney, Armando Rosquete, declined to comment.