In a high-profile public corruption case, suspended two-term Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi was acquitted Thursday of taking bribes in a federal sting operation.
Pizzi was charged in 2013 with allegedly taking $6,750 in bribes from an undercover FBI agents for a Miami Lakes grant deal.
Pizzi was represented by Miami attorneys Ed Shohat, a partner at Jones Walker, and Ben Kuehne.
“Michael’s life was held open for a year based on the slimmest of allegations,” Kuehne said. “This is a lesson for government here about virtue testing good elected officials who are actually representing the best interest of the people.”
Pizzi was suspended from his position by the governor after being charged.
The same two-year federal investigation also resulted in the arrests of Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Maroño and lobbyists Richard Candia and Jorge Forte, all of whom pleaded guilty.
Maroño is serving a three-year prison sentence. Forte was sentenced to a year in prison. Candia, who has yet to be sentenced and testified against Pizzi. Candia is a a former member of the government relations practice at the Becker & Poliakoff law firm.
Candia admitted he was the bag man in the scheme after meeting with an FBI informant and two FBI agents who posed as representatives of a Chicago grant administration company. Candia identified Pizzi as a politician open to taking bribes.
“I think Candia was unmasked as a liar attempting to embellish the evidence,” Kuehne said. “There was no quid pro quo. The government’s case was based on supposition and speculation.”
U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said, “While we are disappointed with the outcome in this case, we respect the jury’s verdict.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jared Dwyer and Robert Senior prosecuted the case.