Monday, August 06, 2012

Former Miami Beach Lead Code Compliance Officer Pleads Guilty to Extortion Conspiracy Involving a South Beach Nightclub

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Jeffrey C. Mazanec, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announced that Jose L. Alberto, the former lead code compliance officer for the city of Miami Beach, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right for his participation in a scheme to extort cash payments from a South Beach nightclub.

Sentencing has been scheduled for November 2, 2012, at 9:30 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola. At sentencing, Alberto faces a possible maximum statutory sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

On March 29, 2012, Alberto was indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a); and 22 counts of extortion under color of official right and induced by the wrongful use of actual and threatened fear of economic loss, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a). According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court, Alberto was the second most senior official at the Miami Beach Code Compliance Division and oversaw and managed all the Miami Beach code compliance officers. As part of their duties, Alberto and the other code compliance officers could issue citations for code violations to businesses operating in Miami Beach.

At today’s hearing, Alberto admitted that in June 2011, he solicited a cash pay-off from a Miami Beach nightclub owner in exchange for not enforcing a large fine for a code violation. The nightclub owner reported the alleged extortion to the FBI, which commenced an undercover investigation. During the undercover investigation that followed, Alberto accepted 22 separate cash pay-offs for a total of $16,600 from either the nightclub owner or an undercover FBI agent posing as the manager of the nightclub. These cash pay-offs were made in exchange for Alberto’s protection from potential code violations and to permit the nightclub to continue operating.

In court, Alberto also admitted that while the pay-offs were being made, he introduced various other code enforcement officers to the undercover FBI agent to help protect the nightclub. These code enforcement officers, like Alberto, also received cash pay-offs in exchange for their protection of the nightclub. Two of those officers, Vicente Santiesteban and Orlando Gonzalez, have pled guilty to conspiring with Alberto to extort cash from the Miami Beach nightclub and are scheduled to be sentenced in the coming months.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI Miami Area Corruption Task Force. This case was prosecuted Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jared E. Dwyer and Robin W. Waugh.

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