Fla. mayors arrested on public corruption charges

Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi, Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Maroño arrested

Pictured: Michael Pizzi (left) and Manuel Maroo (right)
Pictured: Michael Pizzi (left) and Manuel Maroo (right)

MIAMI – FBI agents on Tuesday arrested the mayors of Miami Lakes and Sweetwater on public corruption charges.

Agents arrested Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi and Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Maroño at their city hall offices Tuesday morning.

Maroño is charged with conspiracy to commit extortion. Pizzi is charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official rights.

"This is a sad day for South Florida," said Wifredo Ferrer, the U.S. State Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

According to Ferrer, over two years, Maroño accepted more than $40,000 in bribes and Pizzi accepted $6,750 in bribes. Two lobbyists -- Richard Candea and Jorge Forte -- were also charged in the cases.

An undercover agent paid bribes to Maroño and Pizzi so they'd approve federal grants, said FBI special agent Michael Steinbach.

"In return, the elected officials allegedly participated in the schemes by interfering with audits, passing resolutions, favoring these grants, and endorsing the undercover company on behalf of the elected officials' municipalities," he said.

"This is disappointing. Public officials must be held to the highest standards. While we wait to see the evidence, the fact remains that elected officials must be held to the highest standard," Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement.

Maroño, a member of the Sweetwater City Commission since 1995, was elected mayor in 2003. He currently serves as president of the Florida League of Cities. He played a role in Gov. Rick Scott's transition team in 2011.

Pizzi, an attorney, was reelected as mayor in 2012. He once worked for a high-profile criminal defense firm in Miami.

Pizzi was expected to duke it out with Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez for a charity next week.