Miami Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla was suspended and faces 14 charges, including bribery and money laundering
Florida's Governor, Ron DeSantis, has taken decisive action against Miami Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla, suspending him in the wake of his recent arrest on corruption-related charges. The charges, which include bribery and money laundering, also led to the arrest of attorney and lobbyist William Riley Jr.
Governor DeSantis, in an executive order, stated that him being suspended was in the best interests of both Miami's residents and Florida's citizens. The City of Miami, responding to Dia de la Portilla being suspended, indicated that a meeting would be convened by September 25 to discuss the possibility of a temporary appointment for the District 1 commission seat, leading up to the general election on November 7.
The city commission emphasized that this temporary vacancy and him being suspended won't hinder the city's administrative functions or its services to District 1 residents.
Centner Academy couple not implicated in wrongdoing
Central to the allegations is a proposed $10 million sports complex on public land for a public school. The arrest affidavit suggests that Diaz de la Portilla advocated for this facility in return for significant campaign contributions and other financial benefits. The sports complex, constructed by Centner Academy, was championed by Diaz de la Portilla and received unanimous approval.
The affidavit alleges that Riley collaborated with Diaz de la Portilla to discreetly channel $245,000 from Centner Academy's owners into two political committees. However, the academy's owners, David and Lelia Centner, are not implicated in any wrongdoing.
The Centners, addressing their school community, stated, "We are not being accused of any wrongful acts nor have we done anything wrong."
Riley's involvement allegedly extended to billing the Centners for campaign events and covering Diaz de la Portilla's hotel expenses.
Upon his release, Diaz de la Portilla vehemently denied the allegations, drawing parallels between his situation and what he perceives as unjust targeting of political figures, including President Trump.
A Miami politician being suspended
Diaz de la Portilla's arrest came following an announcement by the FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement ) of 14 combined charges against an attorney and lobbyist, William "Bill" Riley Jr., and Diaz de la Portilla. Both men were taken into custody and accused of various offenses, including failure to report political donations, campaign funds laundering, and using political funds for personal expenses.
While specific details of the case remain sealed, it is known that Riley Jr. and Diaz de la Portilla are alleged to have conspired to launder an amount worth $245,000 in political contributions. This alleged scheme was compensation for Alex Diaz’s support to construct a sports building within Miami. Although the exact location has not been disclosed, sources suggest it is related to a recreational facility near Biscayne Park.
FDLE investigators assert that the laundered funds passed through the bank account of a Delaware-based corporation controlled by Riley.
Legal consequences and repercussions
Both Diaz de la Portilla, aged 58, and Riley, aged 48, face multiple charges, including unlawful compensation for official behavior, bribery, money laundering, and criminal conspiracy. Diaz de la Portilla also faces counts of campaign contribution violations, official misconduct, and reporting gift failure. Some of these charges carry a maximum of 15 years in prison and penalties, while money laundering, classified as a 1st-degree felony, could lead to a maximum sentence of 30 years.
Diaz de la Portilla, who recently qualified for reelection in November, has posted a bond, while Riley Jr. posted his own bond. Both have defended themselves against the charges, with Diaz de la Portilla's attorney, Benedict Kuehne, denouncing them for removing him, resulting in the suspension of an “honored and effective public servant."
This arrest is the latest in a series of controversies involving Diaz de la Portilla, who has faced allegations of abuse of his official position, interference in police investigations, and involvement in alleged shakedown schemes.
Diaz de la Portilla in Miami politics
Diaz de la Portilla, who has represented areas like Flagami, Allapattah, and parts of Little Havana since 2020, has a long-standing political career. He served in the State of Florida House of Representatives from 1994 to 2000, followed by a decade in the Florida Senate. Despite the charges, he remains resolute about seeking re-election, expressing confidence in the trust and support of his constituents. Nevertheless, him being suspended and this arrest casts a shadow over his reelection campaign and adds another chapter of controversy to his long political career.
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