Michael Pizzi defends self against kickback allegations

Miami Lakes mayor accused of pushing through phony federal grant applications

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. - Suspended Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi defended himself against allegations that he took kickbacks as payment for pushing through bogus federal grant applications.

Pizzi spoke with Local 10's Michael Putney on Friday for an interview that'll air at 11:30 a.m. Sunday on "This Week in South Florida."

"I have never taken a bribe or anything inappropriate in my entire life," said Pizzi. "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.

"I don't think it would have been responsible to turn down the opportunity to apply for federal funding for your city when there's high unemployment and do it under a resolution that's not going to cost your city a penny, and more importantly," said Pizzi.

"But didn't these undercover FBI guys say look, this is a phony grant application to a legitimate government agency, AmeriCorps, but you're going to get some of the money, we're going to get some of the money, Richard Candia's going to get part of the money?" asked Putney.

"Well, actually, that was never said to me, number one. And, number two, they repeatedly -- and lobbyist [Richard Candia], whose credibility has been vouched for by everyone -- repeatedly assured me that it was a legitimate program," replied Pizzi.

Read: Michael Pizzi complaint |

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