Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi and Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Marono were arrested by the FBI on public corruption charges Tuesday after they accepted thousands of dollars in bribes in separate schemes, authorities said. Neither man had much to say as he bonded out. FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Steinbach, U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer, Pizzi's attorney Amanda Maxwell and Marono's attorney Armando Rosquette spoke about the case.
Miami Lakes city leaders are meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss the next steps in replacing Mayor Michael Pizzi, who was arrested on Tuesday along with Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Marono on public corruption charges.
The special council meeting was scheduled for 12 p.m.
Pizzi, 51, was suspended by Gov. Rick Scott following his arrest on a federal bribery charge. He was later released on $50,000 bond.
Two lobbyists, Jorge Forte and Richard Candia, are also facing charges related to the arrests of Pizzi and Marono for schemes that paid the mayors thousands of dollars in bribes under a federal grant scheme, authorities said.
Authorities said Candia introduced Pizzi, who also serves as Medley's town attorney, to undercover FBI agents to help implement the grant scheme, and Pizzi initially agreed to participate in exchange for $750 in campaign contributions, authorities said.
To help in the scheme's success, Pizzi backdated a document that endorsed the undercover agents' company, according to authorities. He also lied to and misled an undercover agent, whom he believed was a federal grant auditor, about the use of the grant money and the performance of the grantee, the Town of Medley, authorities said. For his help in Medley, Pizzi received a $1,000 kickback and other things of value, they said.
Later, Pizzi worked to get a resolution passed in Miami Lakes authorizing the undercover agents' company to seek grant money for the city, according to authorities. He received cash payoffs of $5,000 for his efforts in Miami Lakes, authorities said.
Following his arrest, Pizzi's lawyer, Amanda Maxwell, said he is an attorney and a public official, "and a man of integrity. Today begins his fight for vindication.”
Marono, 41, has also been suspended from office. He was released on $250,000.