Miami – The FBI arrested two South Florida mayors Tuesday morning on bribery-related charges.
Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi and Sweetwater Mayor Manuel "Manny" Marono were taken into custody at their offices, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami reported. Both made their first appearances in federal court Tuesday afternoon.
Pizzi, elected in 2008 and in his second term, is an attorney who once worked for a high-profile criminal defense firm in Miami. According to federal prosecutors, Pizzi -- who is also Medley's town attorney -- and Richard F. Candia, an attorney and lobbyist, were involved in a kickback and bribery scheme in connection with federal grants for both Miami Lakes and Medley.
Marono, a member of the Sweetwater City Commission since 1995, became mayor in 2003. He serves as president of the Florida League of Cities and played a role in Gov. Rick Scott's transition team in 2011. An indictment claims that Marono and lobbyist Jorge L. Forte -- the former manager of North Bay Village -- were involved in a separate kickback and bribery scheme in connection with federal grants for Sweetwater.
Both complaints charge the defendants with conspiracy to commit extortion.
"Our democracy suffers when, as in these cases, elected officials use their power and political influence for personal gain instead of for the public good," U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer said in a news release. "Public corruption, at any level of government, corrodes and undermines the public's confidence in our system of government."
It wasn't immediately clear if the mayors or lobbyists had attorneys.
Gov. Scott issued an order suspending both mayors from office.
"This is disappointing," Scott said in a statement after the arrests. "While we wait to see the evidence, the fact remains that elected officials must be held to the highest standard."
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