« August 10, 2013 | Main | August 12, 2013 »

3 posts from August 11, 2013

August 11, 2013

Suspended Miami Lakes mayor declares innocence, vows to fight federal corruption charges

@jayhweaver @ChuckRabin

Suspended Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi declared his innocence Saturday, saying he “accepted no money inappropriately or illegally from anyone, ever,” and that his only motivation was to obtain government grants to help his hometown and Medley.

Pizzi, arrested Tuesday on charges of accepting cash kickbacks as part of a grant scheme in an FBI undercover operation, told the Herald/El Nuevo Herald he would vindicate himself in federal court and return to lead the town that has elected him mayor twice.

“I have never committed any crime or done anything wrong,” Pizzi, 51, said in a statement prepared for the newspapers.

“Now that this has happened to me, I look forward to clearing my name in court as soon as possible so I can return to serving the people as mayor,” Pizzi, 51, said. “The evidence will prove my innocence.”

Pizzi’s lawyers, Ed Shohat and Ben Kuehne, would not allow Herald reporters to question their client.

Pizzi responded for the first time Saturday after being 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 Manny Maroño and lobbyist Jorge Forte of receiving kickbacks.

More here.

Council member announces Miami Lakes candidacy to replace mayor arrested by FBI

@PatriciaMazzei @Paradise_Afshar

Miami Lakes Council member Nelson Hernandez plans to run for mayor of the northwest Miami-Dade town in an upcoming special election to replace Michael Pizzi, who was arrested by the FBI last week on corruption charges.

Hernandez said Sunday that he intends to resign from his council office Monday morning in order to qualify for the special mayoral election, becoming the first announced candidate for the post. Acting Mayor Ceasar Mestre, who had said he planned to seek the seat, changed his mind over the weekend.

The town is expected to set an Oct. 1 special election at a special meeting Tuesday.

"It really puts a black eye on the town," Hernandez told the Miami Herald on Sunday of Pizzi's downfall. "Cleaning up Miami Lakes is going to be one of my priorities." 

Florida Gov. Rick Scott suspended Pizzi and Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño last Tuesday after both were charged with accepting cash kickbacks as part of a federal-grant scheme in an undercover FBI operation. Two lobbyists, Jorge Forte and Richard Candia, were also arrested.

Continue reading "Council member announces Miami Lakes candidacy to replace mayor arrested by FBI" »

The sad-sack lobbyist bagman at the center of FBI mayors' sting


Newly divorced and struggling financially, lobbyist Richard Candia fit the profile of an easy mark for an FBI informant.

“Candia,” an FBI criminal complaint said, “was believed to have contacts with public officials willing to accept bribery and kickbacks.”

It was a spot-on assessment.

From 2011 until this summer, Candia played a crucial role in recruiting Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi and Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño into a kickback sting involving purported federal grants that was orchestrated by the FBI.

Along with Maroño’s right-hand man, Jorge Luis Forte, the men were charged Tuesday and Wednesday in one of Miami-Dade’s biggest corruption busts in years.

For many seasoned politicos and insiders, the corruption wasn’t a shock.

But Candia’s involvement was.

More here