Miami Commissioner Arrested on Corruption Charges Tied to Sports Complex

Alex Díaz de la Portilla faces 13 charges including bribery and money laundering

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Miami Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla was arrested Thursday on a slew of corruption charges, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) announced.

The charges center around allegations that Díaz de la Portilla and lobbyist William “Bill” Riley Jr., who was also taken into custody, laundered $245,000 in political contributions in exchange for the commissioner’s support to build a new sports complex in Miami, which the FDLE did not name. 

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In addition, the FDLE claims that Díaz de la Portilla, who’s up for re-election this November, accepted more than $15,000 in payments for his brother’s judicial campaign for the Miami-Dade County Court and did not report contributions as required under Florida law.

Díaz de la Portilla — whose district includes Flagami, Allapattah and parts of Little Havana — also operated and controlled two political committees used not only to support his brother’s campaign, but also for personal expenditures, the FDLE claimed. Donations for both committees totaled $3.1 million.

In all, Díaz de la Portilla faces 13 charges. They include one count of money laundering, one count of campaign contribution in excess of legal limits, one count of bribery, one count of criminal conspiracy, two counts of failure to report a gift, three counts of unlawful compensation or reward for official behavior, and four counts of official misconduct.

Díaz de la Portilla is being held on a $72,000 bond and is expected to appear in front of a judge at a Miami bond court on Friday. The commissioner’s arrest comes just over a week after he was hit with a civil lawsuit, alleging that he tried to “shake down” an operator of a city-owned marina. 

Attorney Manuel Prieguez accused Díaz de la Portilla of pressuring him and his client Aabad Melwani, president of Rickenbacker Marina, to add real estate agent Anibal Duarte-Viera to a bid in 2020, when the City of Miami was considering proposals for a new boat dock facility on city-owned land in Virginia Key, the Miami Herald reported

Díaz de la Portilla denied the allegations tied to the city-owned marina, but his office did not immediately respond to Commercial Observer’s request for comment concerning the criminal charges.

Julia Echikson can be reached at jechikson@commercialobserver.com