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Ex-Miami Beach official arrested in corruption probe rejects plea deal

@DavidOvalle305

Gus Lopez, the one-time Miami Beach procurement director accused of accepting cash to help companies get an unfair advantage on contract bids, is facing at least some seven decades behind bars if convicted.

Yet Lopez, 53, on Tuesday rejected a plea deal of six years in prison, plus three of probation.

“I’m rejecting the state’s offer,” Lopez told Miami-Dade Circuit Fleur Lobree on Tuesday. “I want my trial.”

The case against Lopez appears strong. He is charged with racketeering and more than 50 other counts, including bid tampering and illegal compensation.

Prosecutors say Lopez teamed up with a businessman, Pierre Landron, to peddle sensitive information to companies looking to unfairly land city contracts in exchange for cash. Investigators say they earned up to $600,000 from at least 12 companies that did business with the city.

At trial, jurors will see reams of financial records, e-mails and even an undercover police video showing Lopez taking a bag of cash from Landron, Miami-Dade prosecutor Tim VanderGiesen told the judge.

Landron is expected to testify against his former partner, as will Lopez’s former wife, said VanderGiesen, the head of the State Attorney’s Public Corruption Unit.

 “We are not negotiating past today,” VanderGiesen told the judge and Lopez. “He will never again get this plea offer.”

Lopez has been jailed since his arrest in October 2012.

Miami Beach detectives and public-corruption prosecutors began looking at Lopez in March 2012, after he resigned amid possible misconduct surrounding the massive Miami Beach Convention Center district redevelopment project. Lopez was in charge of overseeing bids for the deal.

The city became concerned that he was possibly rigging the process by assembling his own development team with businessman Walter Garcia. He is not charged in that case.

The trial will likely take place sometime in the coming months.

--DAVID OVALLE

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