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The Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Thursday arrested City of Miami Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla on money laundering, bribery and other charges. Diaz de la Portilla – who represents District 1 – is up for re-election this November.

The Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, announced the arrest.

Diaz de la Portilla and attorney William Riley Jr. also face charges of campaign contribution violations, criminal conspiracy and unlawful compensation for official behavior, the Commission said in a statement.  

“It is always sad and regrettable when an elected official is criminally charged with abusing the public’s trust, but the community should find some solace in the fact that today’s arrest will shine a bright light on the alleged criminal conduct,” said Jose Arrojo, the Commission’s executive director.

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FDLE said agents discovered Diaz de la Portilla operated and controlled two political committees used not only to support his brother’s judicial campaign for Miami-Dade County Court, 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, FDLE said in a statement.

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Agents said they also found evidence that Diaz de la Portilla and Riley Jr. accepted more than $15,000 in payments for the judicial campaign but did not report them, as required by state law.

FDLE said Riley Jr. is accused of “controlling 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.”

Diaz de la Portilla and Riley Jr. were arrested in Miami Thursday afternoon and were being held at the Turner Guilford Knight Detention Center on $72,000 and $46,000 bond respectively, FDLE said. They are expected to appear in court Friday.

“I have not done anything wrong,” Diaz de la Portilla said in a statement provided by his attorney. “Clearly this action has been timed and executed for shock and awe purposes, to create the maximum damage to my political campaign and family.”

The charges come a week after a lobbyist filed a civil lawsuit against Diaz de la Portilla for allegedly trying to “shake down” the operator of the Rickenbacker Marina. 

Lobbyist and former state lawmaker Manuel Prieguez claimed Diaz de la Portilla said he would not support a redevelopment proposal by the marina’s operator – Key Biscayne resident Aabad Melwani – unless Melwani took on one of the commissioner’s associates as a partner.

Prieguez told the Independent last week that he knew of more incidents that were about to be unveiled where Diaz de la Portilla sold his vote on various projects.

The Florida Democratic Party seized on the arrest of Diaz de La Portilla, who once held top posts in Tallahassee as a Republican lawmaker.

“The corruption that Alex Díaz de la Portilla is accused of is truly staggering, and shatters the trust voters have in elected officials,” said Nikki Fried, chair of the party. “There is no place for that kind of behavior in our democracy.”

She called on Diaz de la Portilla to immediately resign.

In his statement, the commissioner said he was being targeted because of his political views.

“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,” Diaz de la Portilla said.

John Pacenti

JOHN PACENTI is a correspondent of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.

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JOHN PACENTI is a correspondent of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.