Hialeah restaurant owner accused of trying to bribe commissioner

MIAMI (WSVN) - Miami-Dade Police have arrested a Hialeah restaurateur who, they alleged, tried to bribe Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, so his restaurant wouldn’t be shut down.

According to the State Attorney, Hialeah restaurant owner Eleazar Gadea was arrested and charged with bribery after he tried offering money to the county official.

Investigators said Gadea believed that the county was trying to shut down his restaurant, Rancho Okeechobee, for an improper enforcement of zoning violations and code enforcement issues.

Back in March, Gadea showed up at the commissioner’s office asking to meet with him. When he was told that Diaz was not at the office, he allegedly gave the commissioner’s assistant a sealed envelope with $700 cash inside and a letter stating, “Dear Mr. Pepe Diaz: I just want to say thank you very much for your time, help and support and understand, Sir, that you have a friend in Rancho Okeechobee.”

Once Commissioner Diaz found out, he tipped off authorities and a joint investigation was started.

According to a release, undercover officers later contacted Gadea, who explained that under existing zoning ordinances an event he wanted to hold on March 12, would have to shut down at 1 a.m. instead of the 4 a.m., as Gadea had desired. Gadea said he would give the undercover officer $2,000 right then and handed the officer a sealed Wells Fargo bank envelope, adding that if the event could not occur, “he will need the money back.”

Following Gadea’s instruction, the officer took the envelope and counted $2,000 in $100 U.S. bills. Gadea also said that if he is protected, he would like special events to be allowed to take place from then on. He also added that he also wished to see the county inspector removed from his area and to be sent to another zone or area.

“No one should ever believe that our government can be bought and sold,” said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “Attempting to corrupt our officials to avoid code and law enforcement requirements is always bad for a business and bad for our community. No one in law enforcement can ever tolerate it.”

Diaz said, “I value the community’s trust, and it’s shameful that anyone will attempt to violate such trust … I applaud the Miami-Dade Police Department and the State Attorney’s Office for their joint investigation.”

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