SWEETWATER, Fla. – A food store owner in Sweetwater has been charged with bribery after allegedly offering to pay off a code enforcement officer in order to have his business license returned, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office announced on Monday.
Al Gazawi owns the One Food Stop Market, located at 350 SW 109th Ave.
“It is always a sad comment on human nature when someone believes they can buy their way around the law,” State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement. “The Code Enforcement Officer recognized this and thwarted an alleged effort to corrupt the daily business of Sweetwater. He deserves commendation for his integrity, as do the investigators for the City of Sweetwater Police Department who did a fine job putting this criminal case together. Residents of Sweetwater should be proud of all of them.”
According to prosecutors, the investigation started on April 8 after the code enforcement officer contacted Sweetwater police and informed them that Gazawi promised to “take care” of him if he helped the business get its license back.
The business license had been revoked due to ordinance violations, including having gambling machines in the back of the store, authorities said.
Prosecutors said the code enforcement officer had four face-to-face meetings and several phone conversations with Gazawi from April 29 to May 14, during which the store owner provided $5,000 in cash to the code enforcement officer with the promise for more.
Recordings, videos and photographs from the meetings all serve as evidence in the case, prosecutors said.
“We will not tolerate nor ignore corruption in our city or those that represent the City of Sweetwater to be corrupted in any way,” Sweetwater Police Chief Placido Diaz said in a statement. “We continue to maintain a professional law enforcement agency with representatives that uphold the law and say no to corruption.”