City For Sale



A Miami Herald Investigation



Opa-locka Mayor Myra Taylor stood before hundreds of supporters and declared the city was about to enter a new age: improved roads, a renovated historic City Hall, and a public arts campaign that would transform the community. “You can't stop a moving train,” she beckoned the crowd at her annual address.

But what most of the guests didn't know that night: Opa-locka was hopelessly broke and the mayor and others were targets of the largest public corruption investigation in South Florida in a generation.

I knew it was bad, but I didn't know it was that bad. This city is run like the mob.Former Opa-locka Vice Mayor Steve Barrett

City leaders turned the levers of government into their own enterprise, spending lavishly on pet projects, insider deals and community parties even while the city was losing millions each year in revenue.

Some officials turned to threats and bribes, showing up at businesses to shake down owners for tens of thousands in exchange for removing code violations and granting business licenses. In other instances, they threatened to turn off water connections into homes unless residents paid cash bribes.

One of the poorest communities in Florida, Opa-locka had become a city for sale.

I knew it was bad, but I didn't know it was that bad. This city is run like the mob.Former Opa-locka Vice Mayor Steve Barrett

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Residents pay steep price for leaders’ graft, bungling 12/25/2016

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Turning code violations into payoffs, the Opa-locka way 12/3/2016

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Opa-locka’s ‘shell game’ masked millions in debts 12/19/15

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FBI agents blow lid off Opa-locka City Hall corruption probe 3/10/16

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Opa-locka’s ‘shadow’ force moves millions in city contracts 3/27/2016

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FBI tapes provide evidence of bribery, extortion in Opa-locka 4/23/16

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Manager paid himself tens of thousands of dollars amid crisis 5/11/16

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Opa-locka commissioner facing bribery charges kills himself 5/24/16

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Opa-locka turned public utility into extortion racket 8/6/16

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Bank: City in ‘default,’ could have millions in revenue seized 8/29/16

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City spent millions on pet projects, parties, bonuses amid crisis 9/17/16

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City raided $1.7 million belonging to residents, businesses 10/7/16

Reporter

Michael Sallah

Reporter

Jay Weaver

Editor

Casey Frank

Videographer

Jose Iglesias

Motion graphics

producer

Sohail Al-Jamea

Designer

Kara Dapena