South Florida Mayors Charged With Public Corruption Granted Delay in Indictments

Former Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi and Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Marono due back in federal court Sept. 20.

Two South Florida mayors arrested on public corruption charges were granted a delay in their indictments Tuesday.

Former Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi and Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Marono had been scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in federal court, but a judge pushed the arraignments to Sept. 20.

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Pizzi and Marono briefly appeared in court Tuesday, and Pizzi spoke with reporters outside.

"I'm a victim here, I'm innocent of any wrong doing, I'm gonna be exonerated," Pizzi said. "The suggestion that I did anything wrong is ridiculous. I'm a victim of very, very unscrupulous people who apparently spent a couple of years, spending a lot of tax money to try and set me up in something, I did absolutely nothing wrong."

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Pizzi, 51, and Marono, 41, were arrested on August 6 following an undercover FBI operation that also netted the arrests of two lobbyists, Richard Candia and Jorge Forte. Authorities say Candia introduced Pizzi to undercover FBI agents to help implement the plan that paid the mayors thousands of dollars in bribes under a federal grant scheme.

Pizzi is accused of backdating documents, misleading undercover agents and receiving cash payoffs in carrying out the scheme.

But on Tuesday, Pizzi insisted he did nothing wrong.

"If anyone was a victim of a fraud here it was me, I don't understand why I'm being charged with anything quite frankly," Pizzi said. "All I ever did was to act in my city's best interest and try and do good things for the city and I don't understand, you approach somebody, you ask them to do good things for their city and then you suggest that they did something wrong."

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Pizzi, who also served as Medley's town attorney, was suspended by Gov. Rick Scott following his arrest. He was later released on $50,000 bond.

"I always acted in the best interests of my city, I was a good mayor and a good attorney and I have have God on my side and I expect to be exonerated," he said. "The people know me, your viewers know me, I've always fought for the people, I've always overcome obstacles and fought for the people and fought on the right side of issues."

Marono was removed as head of the Florida League of Cities following the arrest. He has been released on $250,000 bond.

Marono declined comment Tuesday but his attorney said the Marono family has appreciated all the support they've received from members of the community.

Pizzi said he's looking forward to his day in court.

"Sometimes God puts these obstacles in front of you, but you know what, I've always been the guy who's been fighting for the right things and I expect to be exonerated," he said.

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