@jayhweaver @BrendaMedinar @msanchezMIA
Until federal agents began swarming over the city the past several months, Sweetwater seemed as nondescript as its City Hall — a three-story concrete box surrounded by working-class homes and an auto repair shop, tamale stand and passport office down the street.
Now, the tiny West Miami-Dade city is quickly becoming famous for something other than its perennial flooding problems and the quirky fact that it was founded by Russian circus midgets.
The city’s disgraced mayor and a lobbyist crony — both convicted last month in federal court — admitted pocketing $60,000 in kickbacks after getting nailed in an FBI sting operation. But the bust only scratched the surface of a culture of corruption that has infested City Hall, which is shared by Sweetwater officials and the police department.
Federal agents are trying to unravel the tangled tentacles of ex-Mayor Manny Maroño’s association with a towing company, in which he has been a suspected silent partner. The city’s no-bid, verbal agreement with Southland The Towing Company, which state records show the mayor once owned, filled police coffers with wads of cash from fines — funds controlled by the recently resigned police chief, a Maroño ally. Some of that cash, deposited into a postal-type box inside the police department, was found to be missing.