Mayors of Miami Lakes and Sweetwater Arrested by FBI on Bribery Charges UPDATED
FBI agents stopped by two city halls of Miami-Dade towns today and left with their mayors in handcuffs. Both Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi and Sweetwater Mayor Manuel "Manny" Maroño were apprehended on bribery-related charges this morning.
Update: Former North Bay Village Mayor Jorge Forte and attorney/lobbyist Richard Candia have also been arrested, and new details of the charges have emerged.
Maroño is alleged to have received $40,000 in bribes since 2002. His charges are connected to Forte, his business partner in 7 Strategies and friend since High School and Candia.
Candia is also involved in the charges against Pizzi. He's alleged to have received $6,750 from lobbyists and undercover FBI agents.
"This is a sad day for South Florida, this betrayal of our public trust is intolerable," U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer said during a press conference. "Our democracy suffers in these cases when elected officials use their power and political influence for personal gain instead of the public good."
Maroño's bail has been set at $250,000. Pizzi's bail is set at $50,000.
FBI were first tipped off the bribery allegations back in June 2011.
Pizzi, a former criminal defense lawyer and councilmen, has served as Miami Lakes' mayor since 2008. Ever reform-minded, Pizzi took a high-profile stance against former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas during the election that ultimately threw both Alvarez and Seijas out of office.
Maroño has been mayor of Sweetwater since 2005, where perhaps his most high-profile effort has been as an early advocate of banning synthetic drugs such as bath salts.
The Miami Herald also points out Maroño runs a public affairs and business development and lobbying firm called 7 Strategies with former North Bay Village mayor Jorge Forte. Maroño is also a longtime supporter of Gov. Rick Scott.
Both will be suspended from office by Scott, as per state law, as they await trial.