Eleazar Gadea thought that all it takes to get your way with Miami-Dade County officials is a few discretely handed-off $100 bills. He even thought that perhaps the county would look the other way if he wanted to hold a paint party until 4 a.m. despite local zoning laws if only he slipped someone a few thousand dollars.
He now finds himself behind bars on a charge of felony bribery after trying to buy off a county commissioner and undercover agents he thought were county officials.
Gadea is the owner of Rancho Okeechobee, a Cuban restaurant in Hialeah that often hosts concerts and other events. According to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the Miami-Dade Police Department, Gadea became convinced that the county was trying to shut his venue down through zoning violations and code enforcement.
On March 4, Gadea went to speak to his county commissioner, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, about the issues. Diaz wasn't in that day, so Gadea left an envelope with Diaz's staff. An assistant opened the package to find $700 in cash, along with a note that read, “Dear Mr. Pepe Diaz: I just want to say thank you very much for your time, help and support and understand Sir, that you have a friend in Rancho Okeechobee.”
The assistant contacted Commissioner Diaz, and he advised his staff to call police.
Undercover officers then contacted Gadea a few days later. He explained his grievances in details.
He said he wanted to hold an event March 12 that would last until 4 in the morning. Local zoning laws allow parties to be held in the area only until 1 a.m. He wanted that changed and offered the agents $2,000 in a sealed Wells Fargo envelope. He noted “he will need the money back" if he couldn't get the zoning changed but added he'd like to be able to host events past 1 a.m. in the future as well.
He also wanted a county inspector removed from his area.
Indeed, according to the restaurant's Twitter page, a spring break party involving Day-Glo paint was scheduled for the restaurant that day. Miami
However, just days before the party was scheduled to take place, organizers announced they had moved the event to Sweetwater, at the "bigger and better" La Covacha, which is regularly open until 5 a.m.
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Miami Jouvert has a new bigger & better venue. TONIGHT we are now at La Covacha 10730 NW 25th Street Doral. Doors open at 10pm! Drink FREE!!— Miami Jouvert (@miamijouvert) March 12, 2016
Gadea now faces a second-degree felony charge of bribery.
“No one should ever believe that our government can be bought and sold,” State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement. “Attempting to corrupt our officials to avoid code and law enforcement requirements is always bad for a business and bad for our community. No one in law enforcement can ever tolerate it.”