Suspended Miami Lakes mayor pleads not guilty to corruption charges

Michael Pizzi plans to go to trial

MIAMI – Suspended Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges Friday.

"I am innocent. I am innocent. I am not guilty. I am not guilty. I am innocent, and I will be exonerated and be found not guilty at trial," said Pizzi.

"He's not taking a plea to anything. He is going to a jury trial," said his attorney, Ed Shoat.

According to the complaint, lobbyist Richard Candia introduced Pizzi to undercover FBI agents who were posing as the owners of a Chicago-based grant administration business. The agents told Candia they could get federal grants with the help of elected officials.

Pizzi helped the FBI agents apply for federal grants in Miami Lakes and Medley, where he serves as town attorney, said the complaint. He received $6,000 in cash for himself, which he didn't report, and $750 for his re-election campaign, which he reported.

"The rest of our talking, we'll do inside of a courtroom," said Pizzi.

Candia waived his right to be arraigned Friday.

"Richard is happy to be cooperating with the U.S. Attorney's Office. He intends to keep doing so," said his attorney, William Barzee.

Former Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Maroño and his former chief of staff, Jorge Forte, are charged in a similar case. Both men pleaded not guilty last week and may be looking for a plea deal.