Richard F. Candia, the center of a kickback and bribery scandal that resulted in the arrests of two mayors, was known to fellow South Florida lobbyists as a shy, clean-cut, honest person.
“When I heard two lobbyists had been arrested, I started to think who it could be. Richard Candia didn’t even cross my mind,” said Nelson Diaz, a lobbyist who was replaced at the Becker & Poliakoff law firm by the 48-year-old Candia earlier this year.
But FBI recordings show Candia was a schemer and bribe-carrying bagman who readily recruited Sweetwater Mayor Manny Moroño and Miami Lakes Mayor Mike Pizzi into the alleged scheme.
Candia got his start in politics as a legislative aide to then-state Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, and then went on to lobby. His clients included Moroño and Pizzi’s cities, the University of Miami and Florida International University.
Candia was hired at Becker along with his partner, Jose Fuentes. In 2011, Candia joined the Fuentes Rodriguez Consulting Group.
Candia reported lobbying compensation of $40,000 to $70,000 from the city of Sweetwater in 2011 and between $20,000 to $50,000 in 2012 for both legislative and executive branch lobbying. In 2012, Candia reported being paid by Miami Lakes between $20,000 and $50,000.
Miami Herald staff writer Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.