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Questionable Connection: Suspended Mayor Helped Towing Co. Get Business

DORAL (CBSMiami/El Nuevo Herald) -- Manny Maroño, the suspended mayor of Sweetwater, helped his friend and former business partner secure a spot as one of the preferred towing companies in Doral, a letter obtained by CBS4 and El Nuevo Herald confirms.

State records show Maroño's friend Robert Muriedas is the current owner of Southland the Towing Company.

But a letter, written by the former City Manager of Doral and obtained through a public records request as part of a joint investigation by CBS4 and El Nuevo Herald, showed Muriedas had some high-powered help in securing the no-bid deal.

Click here for El Nuevo Herald article. 

The letter dated March 15, 2010 was addressed to Manny Maroño.

"As part of this project we have entered into an agreement with you for towing services on a rotational basis," the letter written by former Doral City Manager Yvonne Soler-McKinley said.

To read the letter, click the following link.  Southland Doral Letter

"I think he was somebody who was trying to help a guy that he's known for 30 years," said Alexander Fox, Robert Muriedas' attorney.

Southland used to be the towing company of choice for the Sweetwater Police Department, impounding cars under a verbal agreement with Police Chief Roberto Fulgueira.

Maroño was the town's strong mayor at the time.

He was arrested in August on federal corruption charges.

Southland's deal with Sweetwater was officially terminated in February 2013, when Chief Fulgueira sent a memo advising the company was suspended from doing business with the police department pending an administrative review.

Records show Southland was towing for the Doral Police Department during that time.

"I believe Robert and Southland were already doing the towing for Sweetwater, and it's my understanding that Manny recommended them to do the towing for the pilot program that Doral was about to begin," Fox said.

Fox insisted to CBS4's Lauren Pastrana that Maroño has never had an ownership stake in Southland.

Soler-McKinley told El Nuevo Herald she didn't know if Maroño was part of the company, even though she addressed the letter to him.

Doral's current city manager, Joe Carollo, had plenty to say about the relationship during a 3-hour verbal attack on his political nemesis Doral Mayor Luigi Boria Tuesday night, just hours after CBS4 and El Nuevo Herald's investigation appeared on air and in print.

Click here to view CBS4's original investigation.

Among other accusations, Carollo claimed Boria forced a meeting between the city manager and Southland's owner back in May.

He said Southland was asking for more city business.

"The mayor was aware that Mr. Maroño, or at least he thought that Mr. Maroño was part owner of the company," Carollo told the city council.

Boria denied he knew there was a connection.

"I did not speak to the mayor about these people. I didn't know anything about them," Boria said.

In an email dated August 29th, three weeks after Maroño's arrest, Doral's police chief told Southland to "immediately cease and desist from providing towing services" to the police department.

Carollo said this was done at his request and with his blessing.

"If anything happens down the line, when and if it does, he wasn't working at the time for the City of Doral," Carollo said.

Fox, the attorney representing Muriedas and Southland, said "I don't know why they canceled the agreement and I don't want to speculate on why."

Muriedas previously told Pastrana two FBI agents had questioned him about his relationship with Maroño.

Maroño is due in federal court tomorrow.

According to our partners at The Miami Herald, he will be arraigned on a single charge of conspiring to commit honest services fraud.

The Herald is reporting a plea is likely.

Maroño's attorney did not respond to our request for comment.

"El Nuevo Herald's Brenda Medina co-reported on this report."


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