MIAMI – A Hialeah restaurant owner was arrested after he tried to bribe a Miami-Dade County commissioner to keep his business open, authorities said.
Eleazar Gadea is charged with one count of bribery, a second-degree felony.
Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and Miami-Dade police said Wednesday that Gadea, who owns Rancho Okeechobee, believed that the county was trying to shut down his restaurant because of zoning violations and code enforcement issues.
According to a news release from the state attorney's office, Gadea went to the office of Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz in March and gave his assistant a sealed envelope containing $700 in cash. The envelope also contained a letter that said: "Dear Mr. Pepe Diaz: I just want to say thank you very much for your time, help and support and understand, sir, that you have a friend in Rancho Okeechobee."
Authorities said Diaz was contacted by his staff and advised them to call police, prompting a joint investigation between the Miami-Dade Police Department and the state attorney's office.
Gadea was later contacted by undercover police officers posing as county employees.
According to the release, Gadea wanted to extend the hours of an event that he was planning from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. Gadea said that he would give an undercover officer $2,000 and handed the officer a sealed Wells Fargo bank envelope. In the event that the event couldn't take place, Gadea said he would "need the money back," authorities said.
Gadea also said he would like to hold other special events and wanted a problematic county inspector to be reassigned to another area, authorities said.
"No one should ever believe that our government can be bought and sold," Fernandez Rundle said. "Attempting to corrupt our officials to avoid code and law enforcement requirements is always bad for business and bad for our community. No one in law enforcement can ever tolerate it."
Gadea was being held at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center on a $7,500 bond.
"In regards to this matter, I do not want to hinder this investigation, but my office and I did our duty and notified the proper authorities," Diaz said in a statement. "I value the community's trust and it's shameful that anyone will attempt to violate such trust. I applaud the Miami-Dade Police Department and the State Attorney's Office for their joint investigation."