Everything about yesterday's arrests of lobbyists Richard Candia and Jorge Forte, Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi, and Sweetwater Mayor Manuel "Manny" Maroño on federal bribery charges screams "Only in Miami." There's a paid anonymous informant who happily served up lobbyist Candia as a bagman for corrupt politicians to the FBI. There's Maroño, the mayor of a town founded by Russian circus midgets, introducing undercover G-men to his personal bagman and former North Bay Village Manager Forte during a lovely dinner at a unnamed posh Coral Gables hotel. There's Candia, miked up for sound inside an office closet, handing over an envelope stuffed with $3,000 in cash to Pizzi, a politician once considered a tireless crusader against real estate developers and the rock mining industry.
Hollywood could not make this stuff up. Banana Republican has compiled the five most outrageous allegations in the federal indictments in screenplay form:
INT. CORAL GABLES HOTEL DINING ROOM.
Maroño and Forte, along with two FBI agents posing as shady businessmen from Chicago, discuss how the bribes will be handled.
Whenever you guys talk, it's like talking to me.
In Miami-Dade County, you want something from him (nodding to MAROÑO), you don't call him; you call me. It's just the way it works.
He's me. If you talk to him, you talk to me.
I definitely don't want him to be involved in this part of the conversation. How do you wanna handle...
Well, I'd like to do something that's gonna help me kickstart it.
Forte then negotiates three separate payments totaling $20,000 for the Sweetwater scheme.
Forte makes a wire-tapped phone call to the Sweetwater mayor July 2, 2012, to discuss their split of a $10,000 bribe.
Yeah. All good.
All good. OK, cool.
Five, five each.
OK, it's less than we thought, but that's fine.
Yeah, but the rest will probably be at the end of July.
OK, that's fine.
Yes, yes, all good, all good.
I will call you when I head that way.
INT. HOLLYWOOD HOTEL
The undercover agents meet with Maroño on August 22, 2012, to discuss a $6,800 payoff that Forte collected in Chicago three weeks earlier.
Jorge came to Chicago. He brought you back a souvenir. You good?
What'd he bring me back?
He brought me back something?
He brought you back...
What did he bring me back? I don't remember.
Well, we made the last installment payment. He got your cut.
Oh yeah, souvenir.
Yeah, that's your souvenir.
INT. MAROÑO'S OFFICE
The Sweetwater mayor is on the phone with one of the undercover agents on April 23.
Are you good with the package I gave Jorge when we had dinner last time? I just want to make sure you're happy.
Ummm. I don't know what you're talking about.
UNDERCOVER G-MAN (V.O.)
Ok, all right, well, you know, I just wanted to make sure Jorge got what he needed.
I guess. Jorge seemed fine. He seemed happy.
UNDERCOVER G-MAN (V.O)
It's the following day, and Forte is on the phone with the other undercover agent posing as a shady Chicago businessman.
Hey, let me ask you, you know [G-MAN 1] was trying when he was talking with [MAROÑO], umm, yesterday, to find out if he was happy with the package that we brought you. Manny said something like he has no idea what [G-MAN 1] was talking about.
Well, because he is not going to acknowledge anything of that sort on the phone.
UNDERCOVER G-MAN 2
That's what I was trying to tell him. I go, "Dude, [MAROÑO is] getting the money -- don't worry about it. That's what I was trying to explain to him and calm his fucking nerves.
Yeah, but [UNDERCOVER G-MAN 1] needs to chill out.
INT. PIZZI'S OFFICE CLOSET IN THE TOWN OF MEDLEY
On July 1, Candia meets with Pizzi to deliver a $3,000 bribe.
The last time you told me you need money for your political action committee.
Yeah, I did.
And they said, "Well, go ahead and take it. We'll pay you back."
What you got?
OK. You did good.
The two men exit the closet, and Candia leaves Pizzi's office.
Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.