Miami Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla arrested on money laundering, bribery charges

Attorney also arrested; both could face decades in prison

MIAMI – State law enforcement officials arrested Miami City Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla Thursday on multiple criminal charges.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, agents arrested the District 1 commissioner on one count of money laundering, three counts of unlawful compensation or reward for official behavior, one count of bribery and one count of criminal conspiracy, after he turned himself into the FDLE’s office in Doral.

Attorney William W. Riley Jr., 48, was also arrested and faces the same charges, according to the FDLE.

Diaz de la Portilla, 58, was also charged with four counts of official misconduct, one count of campaign contribution in excess of legal limits and two counts of failure to report a gift. According to the FDLE, Riley was also charged with failure to disclose lobbyist expenses.

William Riley (MDCR)

The two could face decades in prison if they are convicted and face the maximum sentences. The penalty for money laundering is up to 30 years in prison, while the unlawful compensation, bribery and criminal conspiracy counts carry maximum sentences of 15 years each.

“During the investigation, agents found evidence indicating Diaz de la Portilla and Riley Jr. accepted more than $15,000 in payments for Diaz de la Portilla’s brother’s Miami-Dade County Court judicial campaign but did not report them, as required by Florida Statutes, Chapter 106,” an FDLE news release states. “Additionally, Riley Jr. controlled a bank account in the name of a Delaware-based corporation to launder approximately $245,000 in concealed political contributions made by a management services company in exchange for permission to build a sports complex in the city of Miami.”

Sources sports complex involves Centner Academy, a private school

City records show Riley is also a registered lobbyist for David and Leila Centner on the issue of “negotiation of potential construction, management, concession agreement with the City of Miami and Biscayne Park.”

The release continues: “Further investigation determined Diaz de la Portilla also operated and controlled two political committees used not only to support his brother’s campaign, but also for personal expenditures. Records showed that one of the committees reported total donations of approximately $2.3 million and the other reported total donations of more than $800,000.”

6 p.m. report:

Diaz de la Portilla’s brother, Renier, who isn’t named in the release, ran for judge in 2022 and lost.

Alex Diaz de la Portilla has served as a Miami city commissioner since 2020 and previously served as a Republican state representative and senator. Riley is listed as the commissioner’s campaign treasurer in his most recent re-election filing.

At Thursday’s Miami City Commission meeting, amid rumors of his impending arrest, Local 10 News gave Diaz de la Portilla an opportunity to address the matter as he emerged from his city office.

“I don’t abide by your schedule,” he told reporter Christina Vazquez.

“For the folks you serve, the members of the public...” Vazquez began to ask.

“I will talk to them directly,” the commissioner replied, before making his way to fellow Commissioner Joe Carollo’s office.

WATCH: Local 10 News tries to speak with commissioner before arrest

No one opened the door and Diaz de la Portilla chose to walk down a hallway, again refusing to address the public. A city police officer kept Local 10 News from asking him additional questions.

“This is a restricted area, I’m sorry,” the officer said.

Within two hours of dodging and deflecting, Diaz de la Portilla turned himself in.

Diaz de la Portilla was held in the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center on a $72,000 bond, while Riley was being held on a $46,000 bond, according to the FDLE.

Officials released their mug shots just after 4 p.m. Thursday following their bookings.

Diaz de la Portilla later issued a statement through his attorney, Benedict P. Kuehne, who also represented Carollo at the District 3 commissioner’s civil trial:

“I have not done anything wrong.

Clearly this action has been timed and executed for shock and awe purposes, to create the maximum damage to my political campaign and family. This is nothing more than prosecutorial abuse of our court system, abuse of process, and the unfortunate weaponization of law enforcement targeting conservative Republicans for political purposes and career advancement.

When the smoke clears, I am confident that these spurious charges will evaporate into thin air. Any further comment will be through my attorney.”

Statement from Alex Diaz de la Portilla, Miami city commissioner

FDLE officials said the Broward State Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case against the two.

“The investigation was assigned to the Broward State Attorney’s Office under the following executive orders by Governor Ron DeSantis, after the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office requested the investigation should be reassigned to avoid any possible conflict of interest or appearance of impropriety,” a spokesperson for the Broward SAO said.

That possible conflict of interest stemmed from Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle’s “personal and professional relationship” with Riley.

Broward County State Attorney Harold F. Pryor said he “thank(s) and commend(s) the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for their hard work and dedication in investigating this case with our prosecutors. The Broward State Attorney’s Office will pursue justice in this matter.”

Kuehne promised to fight the allegations.

“The Commissioner is innocent of all charges,” he said. “We look forward to full vindication in a court of law.”

The city of Miami released a statement Thursday evening saying it was aware of Diaz de la Portilla’s arrest and couldn’t comment further.

The commissioner bonded out of jail just before 9 p.m. Thursday and is scheduled to make his first court appearance Friday morning.

He spoke to local media outlets after leaving TGK.

“This is a work of fiction by this prosecutor, this is a Democrat state attorney from Broward County who is targeting a Republican commissioner from Miami,” Diaz de la Portilla said, saying the allegations have “no ounce of truth.”

“The same thing that’s happening to President Trump at the national level with four different false prosecutions, is happening to me in Miami at the local level,” he said.

DeSantis’ decision to assign the case to Pryor dates back to 2021.

The Centner family released the following statement to Local 10 News Friday, which you can read below.

About the Authors:

Chris Gothner joined the Local 10 News team in 2022 as a Digital Journalist.

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."