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| Columns |

Midtown Miami Developer Accused of Bribing Ex-New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin

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Yikes! Michael Samuel has some explaining to do in New Orleans. The co-developer of Midtown Miami has reportedly been fingered in an federal indictment of Ray Nagin, the former mayor of the Big Easy who rose to national prominence in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Nagin is accused of accepting kickbacks from developers and contractors.

While Samuel is not named in the indictment and has not been charged, several news outlets in New Orleans claim the developer funneled $112,500 in eight separate monthly payments of $12,500. Gossip Extra's Jose Lambiet was the first south Florida journalist to report Samuel's allegedly seedy deal with Nagin, who is charged with money laundering, fraud, bribery, and filing false tax returns.

We left voice mails for Samuel, his wife Deborah (a Midtown Miami Vice-President), and their public relations representative for comment. We'll update this post if they get back to us.

The allegation of bribery against Samuel is just the latest scandal to engulf one of the men who engineered the transformation of one of Miami's most blighted neighborhoods. In his Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing, the trustee in his case is investigating accusations by Samuel's creditors that he's hidden $20 million in assets. He allegedly fraudulently transferred millions to his wife Deborah and sent $450,000 to her dad, reputed Lucchese crime family associate Frank Arnold.

Her dad was acquitted of RICO charges in New York in the 1990s during a mafia crackdown. Deborah's first husband is Ralph Romano Jr., whose father was another reputed Lucchese associate, was convicted in 2005 of murdering his business partner.

In New Orleans, Samuel sought Nagin's support to redevelop a Market Street power plant on the city's waterfront. He partnered with Nagin's boy and city contractor Frank Fradella, who has pled guilty in the probe, according to New Orleans TV station WWL4.

Fradella allegedly instructed Samuel to hire Nagin's post-mayoral consulting firm, CRN Initiatives. The first payment of $12,500 came from Fradella, the TV station reported. Filings with the Securities Exchange Commission show Samuel's company, Green Energy Management Services, signed a consulting agreement with Nagin's CRN and made eight payments to the firm.

Green Energy also sent Nagin to Jamaica in September 2010 to speak at a green energy conference there.

Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness.

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