City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez sat at his usual corner booth in Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse, just blocks from Downtown Miami. He and Brazilian real estate magnate João Silveira had just finished a two-hour-long lunch replete with medium rare ribeyes, baked potatoes, and a bottle of vintage rioja—all on Silveira’s tab, of course. After much guffawing, back slapping, and half-veiled promises to expedite some pesky zoning permits, Suarez tapped his belly, pushed back his chair, and rose from the table.
“This was incredible João,” he exclaimed. “I really do love our lunches. Call up my EA next time you’re in town. I’d love to do it again.”
Then, to Silveira’s immense shock, the mayor just left.
“I… I don’t get it,” muttered the Brazilian incredulously. “It’s like… he didn’t even want my bribe…”
He stared in disbelief at the brown paper bag filled with $80,000 cash as it sat on the table and not in the mayor’s briefcase.
Silveira had good reason to feel stupefied. Suarez was exceptionally well known throughout Miami for enthusiastically soliciting graft whenever presented with the opportunity. For instance, he accepted $170,000 over two years from Location Ventures in exchange for securing the company a permit to build its $70 million development within city limits.
Likewise, as a City of Miami Commissioner in 2012, Suarez prepared legal documents for Express Homes, a real estate company that purchased houses from Miami-Dade County’s Guardianship Program at below market prices.
The initiative was designed to take control of residents’ assets who were either too old or incapacitated to care for themselves. Instead, it sold their homes to Express Homes, which flipped them for a profit of tens of thousands of dollars apiece. Not for nothing, Suarez also cast the deciding vote that hired the wife of Express Homes’ CEO as Miami’s City Attorney while still doing business for the company.
And so, the Brazilian sat in his chair, worried to death that the mayor might have suddenly found God or at least an out-of-print government ethics handbook. Was his $120 million housing development in the middle of the Everglades doomed? Would Suarez report him to the federal government? Would he have to flee the country back to South America…
“Seems I forgot something!” cried Suarez as he strode through the restaurant, all smiles, hair gel, and immaculately sculpted eyebrows. He swiped the cash off the table and patted Silveira on the shoulder. “Great doing business with you!”
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