Remember that time former Opa-locka Commissioner Luis Santiago insisted he would not plead guilty to bribery charges?
Apparently, he doesn’t either.
On December 30, 2017, he surrendered to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in response to an arrest warrant for participating in “an alleged extortion scheme involving payoffs for official favors,” according to the Miami Herald.
Well, there’s nothing “alleged” about it anymore. Although he agreed to take a plea deal as long as the word “guilty” was off the table, today he caved.
We can assume that U.S. Attorney Wilfredo A. Ferrer made Santiago an offer he couldn’t refuse.
No one should be surprised. What Mr. Ferrer wants, he usually gets.
In a news release issued this morning he stated, “Today in open court, a former City Commissioner admitted that he betrayed the trust placed in him by the people of Opa Locka by abusing his authority to demand and obtain bribes from local individuals and businesses.“
This type of public corruption by an elected official erodes the crucial bond between our public institutions and the communities that they serve. This latest prosecution, arising from the ongoing Opa Locka corruption investigation, again demonstrates the commitment of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners to holding accountable those public officials who engage in criminal activity.”Santiago pled guilty to an Information and admitted to conspiring with former Opa Locka City Manager David Chiverton, former Opa Locka Assistant Public Works Director Gregory Harris, and others to use their official positions and authority with the City of Opa Locka to solicit, demand, and obtain thousands of dollars in illegal cash payments from businesses and individuals in exchange for taking official actions to assist and benefit those businesses and individuals in their dealings with the City of Opa Locka.
In exchange for the illegal payments, Santiago would direct Chiverton, Harris, and other City of Opa Locka employees to assist the paying businesses and individuals by issuing occupational licenses; waiving, removing, and settling code enforcement matters and liens; initiating, restoring and continuing water service; and assisting with zoning issues. Santiago would pay Chiverton, and also would tell the businesses and individuals to pay Chiverton directly in exchange for these official actions.
Chiverton and Harris previously pled guilty. Chiverton was sentenced to 38 months in prison by United States District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga, while Harris is awaiting sentencing before United States District Judge Beth Bloom.
It’s likely that Santiago will be receiving a similar sentence. We’ll keep you posted.