Demetrius Corleon Taylor, the son of Opa-locka’s mayor, has a rap sheet that spans more than 20 years — ranging from prison time for armed robbery to probation for political campaign violations.
Now, Taylor is accused of using his connections at City Hall to shake down a local businessman for thousands of dollars.
Taylor, the 41-year-old son of Mayor Myra Taylor, surrendered to the FBI early Tuesday on a corruption charge. He is accused of conspiring with a now-convicted city manager and a targeted city commissioner to extort illicit cash payments from Opa-locka business owners in exchange for taking care of their licenses, code violations and fines.
Taylor, represented by defense attorneys Michael T. Davis and Ben Kuehne, pleaded not guilty to the single conspiracy charge and was released on bond during his first appearance in Miami federal court. Taylor was charged by “information,” not indictment, meaning he is expected to plead guilty to limit his potential prison sentence.
His change of plea hearing is scheduled for Dec. 8 before U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles.
“He’s ready to start the process of healing and reconciliation and to move forward with taking care of his family,” Davis told the Miami Herald.
Taylor is the third defendant to step forward to deal with corruption charges stemming from a three-year FBI investigation into extortion and other illegal activities at Opa-locka City Hall.
His arrest follows plea deals struck between the U.S. attorney’s office and former City Manager David Chiverton, who received a three-year prison term last week, and former public works supervisor Gregory Harris, who is awaiting sentence.
Taylor did not work for the city of Opa-locka while he conspired with “Public Official A,” identified by sources as one-time City Commissioner Luis Santiago —who has not been charged — as well as Chiverton and other co-conspirators between March 2014 and March 2016, according to the information. Taylor worked during this period for the city’s trash haulers, including most recently Universal Waste Services.
According to the information, it was the goal of Santiago, Chiverton, Taylor and the others to “unlawfully enrich themselves” by soliciting bribes in exchange for official favors to resolve license requests, code citations and penalties.
In March of last year, Taylor approached a local business owner, Frank Zambrana, who sold heavy equipment in Opa-locka. Zambrana was unable to obtain a routine occupational license because of constant hassles with the city’s code enforcement office and then-supervisor Gregory Days, he told the Miami Herald.
According to the information, Taylor met Zambrana at his business and demanded $4,000 “to pay off city officials to resolve the code enforcement citations issued against” his property. Taylor claimed that $1,000 of that total would go to a “specific city employee” who was not Chiverton, according to the information.
“Taylor ultimately accepted $500 in cash with [Zambrana] promising to pay the rest shortly thereafter,” the information said.
What Taylor did not know was that Zambrana, frustrated for months over shakedowns by Chiverton and others, had gone to the FBI and agreed to record his conversations with them in a sting operation.
Taylor, in collaboration with Chiverton, returned to Zambrana’s business in April of last year to collect the remaining cash bribes. During the meeting, Taylor accepted $2,500 from Zambrana and told him that he would take care of his code enforcement and licensing problems at City Hall, the information said.
Zambrana then told Taylor that he would pay the final $1,000 directly to the city employee, who was not identified. But Taylor responded that the employee would not collect the money directly from him.
Toward the end of April, Taylor returned to Zambrana’s business after he was hit with additional code enforcement citations. Taylor told him that he would take the final payment and deliver it to the city employee.
“Although the remaining $1,000 was not paid, Taylor did accept $100 from [Zambrana] during this meeting,” according to the information.
If convicted, Taylor faces up to five years in prison, though he is expected to receive less punishment with his likely plea deal. He must also repay $3,100 to the U.S. government.