SWEETWATER (CBSMiami) – Former Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño admitted his guilt Wednesday in the public corruption case against him.

Now that he’s convicted, the man at the center of Sweetwater politics for almost two decades will never be able to hold office or vote again.

The 41-year-old who first took a seat on the city commission in 1995 is out on bond awaiting sentencing.

“Today, I’m here to accept responsibility, to move on to a new chapter in our lives,” Maroño told a crowd of journalists outside the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale after his court appearance.

With his wife and mother, Sweetwater commissioner Isolina Maroño, by his side, Manny Maroño made a brief statement, but did not answer questions after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud.

The move was an about-face from the not-guilty plea he entered just a month ago in response to allegations he abused his power for personal gain.

“After 18 years of giving his heart and soul to the people of Sweetwater, years of great progress, a tragedy has occurred in the career of Manny Maroño,” his attorney, Kendall Coffey, said.

Maroño was arrested in August as part of an FBI sting in which he was accused of taking thousands of dollars in kickbacks through a bogus grant scheme.

In court, Maroño told the judge he “conspired to receive $25,000 by passing resolutions and signing endorsement letters in (his) role as mayor of Sweetwater.”

Lobbyist Jorge Forte was also in court Wednesday to change his plea.

Forte admitted to splitting the money with Maroño.

“Mr. Forte is regretful for the decision that he made for his involvement in this particular matter,” Forte’s attorney, David Weinstein, said. “He’s done everything in his power to correct that.”

In a statement, FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Steinbach said, “Corrupt officials, either elected or appointed, are on notice.”

CBS 4 and our news partners at El Nuevo Herald have learned there are ongoing investigations in the city.

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