Suspended Miami city commissioner pleads not guilty to money laundering and other charges

MIAMI (AP) — A suspended Miami city commissioner who is accused of accepting $245,000 in exchange for voting to approve construction of a sports facility has pleaded not guilty to multiple felony charges, including bribery and money laundering.

Alex Diaz de la Portilla did not appear in court Friday, but his attorney, Ben Kuehne, entered the plea for him.

Diaz de la Portilla and a co-defendant, Miami attorney William Riley Jr., were arrested Sept. 14.

Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Diaz de la Portilla, who is a fellow Republican, after the commissioner's arrest. Kuehne said Friday that his client was campaigning for the Nov. 7 election to keep his seat on the commission.

“We look forward to a vindication of these charges because Alex is not guilty," Kuehne said at the Miami-Dade criminal courthouse, according to the Miami Herald.

Kuehne requested that Diaz de la Portilla be tried separately from Riley, WPLG-TV reported.

On Friday, Riley's attorney also entered a not guilty plea for his client, who did not appear in court. Riley is accused of being the front for the business that allegedly gave money to the Diaz de la Portilla campaign in exchange for the right to build a sports facility on land that is now a downtown city park.

Both men bonded out of jail soon after being arrested, and their next status hearing is Nov. 14. A trial date has not been set.

Diaz de la Portilla is a former state legislator and was elected to the city commission in 2019.

Investigators said Diaz de la Portilla and Riley accepted more than $15,000 for the Miami-Dade County Court judicial campaign of Diaz de la Portilla’s brother but did not report the money, as required by state law. Riley also controlled a bank account in the name of a Delaware-based corporation to launder about $245,000 in concealed political contributions made by a management services company in exchange for permission to build a sports complex, officials said.

Investigators also said Diaz de la Portilla operated and controlled two political committees used both for his brother’s campaign and for personal spending. Records showed one of the committees reported donations of about $2.3 million and the other reported more than $800,000.

Diaz de La Portilla and Riley are each charged with one count of money laundering, three counts of unlawful compensation or reward for official behavior, one count of bribery and one count of criminal conspiracy.

Diaz de la Portilla is also charged with four counts of official misconduct, one count of campaign contribution in excess of legal limits and two counts of failure to report a gift. Riley is also charged with failure to disclose lobbyist expenses.