Suspended Sweetwater mayor pleads not guilty
MIAMI (WSVN) -- Suspended former Mayor of Sweetwater and a lobbyist appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to a public corruption charge.
Months earlier, investigators said, an undercover operation revealed Manuel Maroño and lobbyist Jorge Forte were pocketing thousands of dollars in kickbacks in a federal grant scheme between Oct. 2011 and Aug. 2012.
Both waived their right to a grand jury indictment and pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. "We just entered a plea of not guilty, Armando Rosquete, Maroño's attorney, said. "It's standard form in this process of the arraignment."
"We place our trust in the criminal justice system to resolve this matter," David Weinstein, Forte's attorney, said. "Jorge Forte deeply regrets his involvement in this case."
Both allegedly received a combined $60,000 from the scheme and for introducing undercover FBI agents to several other players, who would eventually get caught up in the same scheme.
In waiving their right to a grand jury indictment, 12 out of 16 grand jury members do not need to find probable cause for the allegations.
The case will move forward on the U.S Attorney's information. "Consistent with what we've said throughout the proceedings in the case thus far, we only plan to comment about the case in court filings," Rosquete said.
Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi and lobbyist Richard Candia are also facing similar charges. They are on arraignment in their case, scheduled for next week.
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