A once-powerful Miami-Dade politician, Manuel Maroño, fell hard last week when he was sentenced to more than three years in prison for taking bribes as the mayor of Sweetwater.
Another small-town mayor swept up in an identical FBI sting operation has no intention of going down the same way.
Instead, Michael Pizzi, the suspended mayor of Miami Lakes, says he can’t wait to fight the feds at trial in May. Pizzi, a practicing lawyer and famously outspoken politician, has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence from day one.
“I’m a community guy,” Pizzi, 51, insisted in an interview with the Miami Herald last week. “I’ve never accepted any money from anyone in exchange for doing political favors — ever.”
There is no question that the U.S. attorney’s corruption case against Pizzi will prove tougher to make than the prosecution of Maroño. The longtime Sweetwater mayor pleaded guilty so fast because he incriminated himself on FBI undercover recordings — tapes that confirmed practically every bribe that he grabbed in a government grant scheme.