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FBI Arrests Mayors Of Miami Lakes & Sweetwater

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested the mayors of Miami Lakes and Sweetwater Tuesday on bribery charges.

The arrests, first reported by CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald, will be separate cases involving different people.

Both Mayor Michael Pizzi and Mayor Manuel Maroño were taken into custody at their respective city hall offices and appeared in federal court Tuesday afternoon, according to the Herald.

Both Pizzi and Maroño were charged with conspiracy to commit extortion. Pizzi's bond was set at $100,000 and Maroño's was set at $250,000. Both were released from federal custody early Tuesday evening.

"This has nothing to do with the city. I've done nothing wrong," said Maroño as he walked out of the federal courthouse.

In addition, two lobbyists were also arrested Tuesday.

According to U.S. Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer, Moroño received roughly $40,000 in bribes since 2002. Ferrer said Pizzi received $6,750 in bribes.

"This betrayal of the public trust is intolerable," said Ferrer at an afternoon news conference announcing the arrests.

"There was like seven or eight FBI agents," a witness to the arrests named Raul told CBS4's David Sutta. "I always knew that guy was a corrupt mother...I'm sorry. He was a bad guy. This guy didn't do anything for Sweetwater. I always knew he had something going on."

Governor Rick Scott released a statement within an hour of the arrest that read, "This is disappointing. Public officials must be held to the highest standards. While we wait to see the evidence, the fact remains that elected officials must be held to the highest standard."

The governor's office also suspended both men from office after the arrests.

Pizzi is in his second term as mayor of Miami Lakes and has worked as a Miami Lakes councilman and at a criminal defense firm in Miami before being elected mayor for the first time in 2008.

Pizzi also helped lead the fight to oust former Miami-Dade Commissioner Natacha Seijas in 2011, according to the Herald.

"He will be vindicated. He's a man of integrity and looks forward to his day in court," said Pizzi's attorney Amanda Maxwell.

Maroño is not only the Mayor of Sweetwater, but also president of the Florida League of Cities and was part of Governor Scott's transition team. Maroño was one of Scott's most vocal supporters during his 2010 run for governor.

Maroño does have at least one supporter, his mother and Sweetwater councilman Isolina Maroño.

"It's not true. Whatever they are doing with him, it's not true. It's not true," Isolina said. "I'm sure it will all be cleared up. He has nothing to do with this. He hasn't done anything."

Sweetwater Vice Mayor Jose Diaz took over for Maroño after the arrest Tuesday.

"I am very sorry that this is the way I have to take over his position, but we will do our best and I will put pride and integrity on the city," Vice Mayor Diaz said.

When questioned by CBS4's Sutta on whether or not Maroño was guilty, Diaz said he doesn't think he's guilty, but time will tell.

"That would be unfair of me to say he's guilty or not," Diaz told CBS4. Sutta countered, "But you work hand in hand with him, day in and day out, you know him best." Diaz responded, "I don't think there is anything wrong with the mayor. I don't think that he's guilty, but we have to wait."

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Miami Herald contributed to this report.)

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