Rundle's office will hold a news conference at 2:30 p.m. to formally announce the charges, but numerous media outlets report that Pierre, who is 52, got caught taking straight-up bribes from a local strip-club owner. Rundle tweeted minutes ago that the commissioner has been charged with individual counts of bribery, unlawful compensation, organized scheme to defraud, and grand theft, as well as seven counts of money laundering — which seems like a lot of money laundering!
According to charging documents New Times obtained from the State Attorney's Office, Pierre was allegedly caught taking $20,000 in bribes from Dean Tyler, the owner of Dean's Gold in North Miami Beach, from December 2013 to September 2014. Prosecutors say that Dean's Gold wanted the city to give the strip club an extended, after-hours liquor license and that after Pierre took the cash, he voted in favor of the plan. Prosecutors say Tyler funneled $12,500 directly to Pierre and then $9,865 to a charity called Community Hope for Families and Children in Need, which was run by a woman named Jacqueline Alexis. Rundle's office provided text-messages that showed Pierre asking Tyler for $7,000 after the commissioner claimed he'd gotten into a car accident.
Separately, prosecutors say, Pierre funneled taxpayer money through Alexis's charity and directly to himself. The State Attorney's Office says he gave Community Hope a $2,000 check for an "after-school tutoring" program that didn't exist. After Pierre sent the charity thousands in city money, the charity allegedly cut Pierre a check for $2,905. In total, prosecutors allege Alexis wrote checks to Pierre totaling $5,250.
This is far from Pierre's first controversy as a city commissioner. This past January, the commission briefly removed him from his post after he missed too many meetings, but Pierre said that he was demonstrably sick and that his enemies were trying to push him out illegally. He sued and was reinstated.
Press Conference in my office at 2:30 PM to announce details charging @NorthMiamiBeach Commissioner Frantz Pierre with 1 Count each of Bribery, Unlawful Compensation, Organized Scheme to Defraud, Grand Theft & 7 counts of Money Laundering. He has surrendered this morning.— Kathy Rundle (@KathyFndzRundle) July 25, 2018
Then, in May, he was found guilty of ethics violations after the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust found he threatened to fire a code-compliance officer if she issued citations at his house. He was fined $1,000.
But it wouldn't be entirely fair to single out Pierre, because the entire North Miami Beach government seems to exist only as a machine that destroys public services and gets people arrested. The city's past two mayors — Myron Rosner and George Vallejo — faced criminal charges. New Times even obtained a sworn deposition earlier this year in which Vallejo admitted under oath that the Dezer family, perhaps the most powerful clan of land developers in town, had paid off Vallejo's wife for years and that Vallejo created multiple shell companies to hide the money.
Update: Rundle's office has since released more information about the case, including copies of checks prosecutors say Alexis wrote directly to Pierre from a company she owned called "PsychoEd:"
If you're gonna do some strip-club bribery like NMB Commissioner Frantz Pierre, you may as well take the payoffs from a guy who cuts his checks as "Psycho Ed" pic.twitter.com/xgHfa77k1r— Tim Elfrink (@timelfrinkmia) July 25, 2018