South Florida

Son of Opa-locka’s mayor headed to prison for bribery offense

Corleon Taylor
Corleon Taylor Miami-Dade County Jail

In a personal letter to a federal judge, the son of Opa-locka’s mayor described himself as a good husband, a good father and a good citizen.

But in his plea for mercy, Corleon Taylor also recognized the stark reality of his crime: exploiting political connections at City Hall to shake down a local businessman for thousands of dollars.

How corruption and mismanagement pushed Opa-locka to the edge of insolvency.

“I have dishonored myself and my family, and have disgraced my community, becoming another in a what is now a sad tale of corruption in my hometown,” Taylor wrote U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles.

In court, on Wednesday, he apologized to the judge: “If I had to do it over, we would not be here.”

Taylor, who pleaded guilty in December to accepting $3,100 in bribes, received a 10-month sentence — but with half of that time served in prison and the other half at home. Taylor sought that arrangement in the hope that he can attend his son’s high school graduation in June, said his defense attorney, Michael T. Davis.

Taylor, who must surrender to prison authorities on Feb. 8, was lucky to receive the split sentence because he has a rap sheet that spans over 20 years, ranging from prison time for armed robbery to probation for campaign violations. The latter offense stemmed from his mother’s mayoral campaign in 2010.

Mayor Myra Taylor and her husband, Bishop John Taylor, led a group of family members who attended Wednesday’s sentencing hearing. The parents even shook hands with FBI agents after the judge punished their son.

Afterward, John Taylor told the Miami Herald: “He is 41 years old, he has five children and he has to take responsibility for his own actions.”

Taylor surrendered to the FBI in December and quickly pleaded guilty to 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 fourth defendant to face corruption charges resulting from a three-year FBI investigation into extortion and other illegal activities at City Hall.

Taylor did not work for Opa-locka while he conspired with former Commissioner Luis Santiago and ex-City Manager David Chiverton between March 2014 and March 2016, according to a charging document. Taylor worked at that time for the city’s trash haulers.

Luis Santiago, former commissioner for the City of Opa-Locka, exits the Federal Courthouse in Miami after surrendering to bribery charges. He pleaded 'Not Guilty' and was released after posting $50,000 surety bond on Friday, December 30, 2016. His

According to the document, it was the goal of Santiago, Chiverton, Taylor and others to “unlawfully enrich themselves” by soliciting bribes in exchange for official favors to resolve license requests, code citations and penalties.

In March of 2015, 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.

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, prosecutors say.

Zambrana, working undercover for the FBI, video-recorded making $3,100 in bribery payments to Taylor during three meetings. The judge ordered him to repay that money to the government as part of his punishment.

Opa-locka residents angry with the direction the city is heading, protest outside of city hall on Jan. 20, 2017.