A former Miami Beach building official has turned himself in to face criminal charges for allegedly accepting favors from the owners of a hotel undergoing renovation.
Mariano Fernandez was charged Tuesday with unlawful compensation, the Miami Herald reported. Fernandez's lawyer says the facts don't support a criminal charge.
Miami-Dade prosecutors say Fernandez used his authority to smooth permits and inspections for a renovation project at the Spanish-owned RIU Plaza Hotel between October 2013 and June 2016. In exchange, authorities say Fernandez solicited free or deeply discounted rates at RIU properties in the Dominican Republic and Mexico.
"To keep these illicit rewards coming Fernandez used his position and influence to utilize Miami Beach’s computerized permit system to personally approve and expedite matters," Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said at a news conference Tuesday.
Prosecutors are also filing charges against two senior RIU executives. RIU owns more than 100 hotels in 19 countries.
"Mr. Riu personally approved all of the gifts down to the specific bottle of whiskey that was to be waiting for Mr. Fernandez upon his arrival," Fernandez Rundle said.
Fernandez was fired last year by Miami Beach while under investigation.
"I set high standards of honesty and integrity for all city employees, especially my management team. When Mr. Fernandez was appointed as the Building Director in May 2013, I had extensive discussions regarding my expectations in regards to ethics," Miami Beach city manager Jimmy Morales said in a statement Tuesday.
Jail records showed the 64-year-old Fernandez was being held on $20,000 bond Tuesday.