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Former Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño begins prison sentence

 
 
Former Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño, center, walks with his wife, Jennifer, and his son Justin while leaving federal court in Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 23, 2014.
Former Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño, center, walks with his wife, Jennifer, and his son Justin while leaving federal court in Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 23, 2014.
ROBERTO KOLTUN / EL NUEVO HERALD STAFF

bmedina@ElNuevoHerald.com

Former Sweetwater Mayor Manuel “Manny” Maroño surrendered to federal authorities on Tuesday to begin serving his 40-month prison sentence for public corruption.

Maroño, an influential politician in his heyday, arrived at the federal courthouse in downtown Miami wearing a white T-shirt, jeans and sneakers. Three people accompanied him, including former Sweetwater police commander Mario Miranda.

Maroño pleaded guilty in November to conspiring to commit bribery after accepting thousands of dollars in exchange for political favors.

Initially, U.S. District Judge William Zloch set March 31 as Maroño’s surrender date. But at a hearing last week, the judge learned that Maroño did an interview with a Spanish-language TV station after his sentencing in which he said he would not have cooperated with federal authorities as did lobbyist Jorge Forte because he was not a “snitch.”

Forte’s attorneys told the judge that Maroño said in an interview that he felt “betrayed” by Forte, the godfather of one of his sons.

After hearing that, Zloch advanced Maroño’s surrender date to Tuesday.

The FBI arrested Maroño and former Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi, together with lobbyists Forte and Richard Candía, in August as part of an undercover operation it had started in 2011. Pizzi has pleaded not guilty.

According to the original criminal charge, Maroño was involved in a corruption conspiracy stemming from an FBI sting operation, in which he accepted thousands of dollars in kickbacks in exchange for supporting sham government grant applications.

Maroño and Forte split $60,000, which they had to return to the federal government after they were sentenced.

Forte was sentenced last week to one year in prison, and must surrender on April 4.

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