80ºF

Suspended Miami Lakes mayor to be arraigned

Michael Pizza says he will enter not guilty plea

MIAMI – Suspended Miami Lakes mayor Michael Pizzi will be arraigned on federal corruption charges Friday.

Pizzi has defended himself against allegations that he took kickbacks as payment for pushing through bogus federal grant applications.

VIEW: Investigation Report

"I have never taken a bribe or anything inappropriate in my entire life," Pizzi told Local 10's Michael Putney during an interview on "This Week in South Florida. "I'm with the best lawyers in the world. I'm presumed innocent. They've advised me that the best time to address this is going to be my day in court, in a court of law, but I did not do anything wrong. I'm innocent. I did not accept any bribes."

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 grant moneys with the help of elected officials.

Pizzi helped the FBI agents apply for federal grant moneys 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.

On Thursday evening, Pizzi released the following:

Dear Friends:

I am going to be in court tomorrow, Friday, October 25th at 10:00 am. The hearing is open to the public and anyone can attend. It is at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow at the old Federal Courthouse at 301 North Miami Avenue on the Fifth floor. You can just ask for the Arraignment Magistrate. There is a metro rail stop at that location.

If I am charged with any crimes, I will be pleading NOT GUILTY and finally get the chance to go to court and clear my name. What separates the U.S. from Cuba is that the government cannot just drag people out of their lives without giving them their day in court. The last few months have been about accusations, and we have all been the victim of accusations in our lives that were false. Now, I get my chance chance to use the AMerican Court system in this great country to set myself free and return to my life with all of you. I stand proud of our new government center, of 87th avenue opening up. I stand proud of our Just Run Program to save children form obesity and stand proud behind our Tai Chi and other programs for our beloved seniors. I stand proud of flying to Washington to fight the government to keep the flight towers open at Opa Locka Airport. I stand proud behind our veterans memorial and our care package program. And, I stand proud of never turning my back on any school child, parent, senior or veteran. My life has been devoted to this communities families and no one from Washington or accusing lobbysists can take that away from any of us. Please stand with me and my family in prayer as I now begin the process of clearing my name and fighting,like I have fought for all of you whenever you needed me.

Love and God Bless

Michael Pizzi