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OPA-LOCKA (CBSMiami) — The former city manager of Opa-Locka and public works director are facing corruption charges amid a federal probe into the city.
Former Opa Locka City Manager David Chiverton – who resigned last month – and former Opa-Locka Assistant Public Works Director Gregory Harris were charged for their participation in a two-year long bribery and extortion scheme, the U.S. Department of Justice said Friday.
According to authorities, Chiverton and Harris used their official positions within the city to solicit, demand and obtain thousands of dollars in bribes from businesses and individuals in exchange for some sort of official action.
In exchange for the illegal payments, investigators said a public official would direct Chiverton, Harris and other City of Opa-Locka employees to do various tasks like issuing occupational licenses; waiving, removing, and settling code enforcement matters and liens; initiating, restoring and continuing water service; and assisting with zoning issues.
Harris also allegedly was directed by Chiverton and another public official to take actions like restoring water service to businesses that had paid them illegal bribes.
Harris appeared in court Friday morning and Chiverton is scheduled to be in court Monday morning.
If convicted, Chiverton and Harris each face a maximum sentence of five years’ behind bars, a fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release.
Meantime, the FBI has also been investigating Opa-Locka’s mayor over allegations of corruption. Several other top officials are under investigation as well.
CBS4 News was the first to air the only television interview with FBI’s inside man in Opa-locka, Frank Zambrana,who says he wore a wire and recorded a number of city officials shaking him down for bribes.
Zambrana claims city commissioner Luis Santiago began shaking him down for payments. He then says Santiago introduced him to Chiverton and Harris. Years of payments later, Zambrana is finally seeing action.
For Zambrana, it may be too little too late. In the time he helped the FBI, he’s lost two sons – one to cancer and one to suicide – and he’s lost his business. He said this past spring, he regretted participating in the long drawn out FBI investigation.
As for the city, it’s under a state of financial emergency – declared by Florida Governor Rick Scott. This means the state is overseeing everything for the city of Opa-Locka.
City officials say Opa-Locka is facing a $1.4 million shortfall plus millions more in previous debts.