South Florida

Mayor’s ex-con son latest to plead guilty in Opa-locka bribery scandal

Corleon Taylor, who pleaded guilty in Opa-locka’s burgeoning public corruption case, is the son of Mayor Myra Taylor.
Corleon Taylor, who pleaded guilty in Opa-locka’s burgeoning public corruption case, is the son of Mayor Myra Taylor.

Opa-locka political insider Corleon Taylor, who pleaded guilty on Thursday to accepting thousands of dollars in bribes, hopes to attend his son’s high school graduation in June.

But that will depend on whether a federal judge grants his request to split a 10-month sentence, with half the time served in prison and the other half at home.

Taylor, 41, the son of Opa-locka Mayor Myra Taylor, plans to ask U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles for that deal on Jan. 24

“He’s not playing any games with this,” said his defense attorney Michael T. Davis. “He’s just thinking of his family.”

Taylor has a rap sheet that spans over 20 years — ranging from prison time for armed robbery to probation for campaign violations. The latter offense, which stemmed from his mother’s mayoral campaign in 2010, increases his potential punishment in the bribery case.

Taylor faces between 10 months and 16 months in prison under sentencing guidelines, with the U.S. attorney’s office recommending the lower end of that range.

Taylor surrendered to the FBI last week on a corruption charge. With his guilty plea, he’s now convicted of conspiring with a former city manager and 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 is the third defendant to step forward to deal with corruption charges resulting from a three-year FBI investigation into extortion and other illegal activities at Opa-locka City Hall.

The city of Opa-locka spent nearly $1.7 million in deposits belonging to water customers. Among those denied their money: Luis Perez, who also says the assistant public works director threatened to have him jailed.

His conviction follows plea deals struck between the U.S. attorney’s office and former City Manager David Chiverton, who received a three-year prison term in November, and former public works supervisor Gregory Harris, who is awaiting sentencing.

Taylor did not work for the city of Opa-locka while he conspired with “Public Official A” — identified by sources as recently defeated City Commissioner Luis Santiago, who has not been charged — as well as Chiverton and others between March 2014 and March 2016, according to an information accusing Taylor of bribery. He 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.

According to the charging document, it was the goal of Commissioner Luis Santiago, City Manager David Chiverton, Corleon Taylor and others to ‘unlawfully enrich themselves’ by soliciting bribes in exchange for official favors.

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 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 ultimately accepted $500 in cash, with [Zambrana] promising to pay the rest,” 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 in a sting operation.

“I did not put [Taylor] in that situation,” Zambrana told the Miami Herald in an interview on Wednesday. “He put himself in that situation.”

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. Toward the end of April, Taylor returned to Zambrana’s business after he was hit with additional code enforcement citations, according to the information. He ended up paying Taylor $100.

Former Assistant City Manager Jordan Leonard talks about his 2012 discovery of over one million dollars of uncollected water bills in inactive accounts in the city of Opa-locka.