Former Miami Lakes mayor faces federal trial in May

 

jweaver@MiamiHerald.com

Michael Pizzi, the suspended Miami Lakes mayor, will face trial in early May for his role in an alleged cash-for-contract scam.

In October, Pizzi pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging him with seeking kickbacks in exchange for sponsoring sham federal grant applications that prosecutors say were meant to enrich him.

According to the indictment, Pizzi collected three payments totaling $6,000 in cash and received $750 in checks for his 2012 reelection campaign in exchange for championing resolutions that paved the way for grant applications in Miami Lakes and in Medley. Pizzi, 51, also worked as Medley’s town attorney.

Pizzi, represented by defense attorneys Ed Shohat and Ben Kuehne, will face charges of conspiring to commit extortion and four counts of attempted bribery at his trial before U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke. If convicted, each count carries up to 20 years in prison.

In August, Pizzi was arrested and charged along with Miami-Dade lobbyist Richard Candia. Separately, Candia also was accused of the same offense with Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño and lobbyist Jorge Forte, who pleaded guilty in November.

All were accused of participating in a “bogus” grant scheme designed to line their pockets with thousands of dollars while their towns would get nothing. The sting operation was orchestrated by the FBI’s anti-corruption agents, who posed as Chicago businessmen claiming they would obtain the grant money for an economic development study and share the proceeds with the two mayors and two lobbyists.

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