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Corruption Charges Put Squeeze On Miami City Hall

September 11, 1996

MIAMI (AP) _ City Manager Cesar Odio, who has run the city through financial headaches brought on by Cuban refugees, riots and soaring crime rates, was charged Wednesday with conspiring to receive kickbacks.

Odio, 60, and lobbyist Jorge de Cardenas, 51, were charged in a federal criminal complaint with scheming to skim $12,500 a month from an insurance company doing business with the city.

Assistant City Manager Manohar Surana cooperated with the investigation after being caught by the FBI earlier this year in a separate bribery scheme. He resigned and agreed to plead guilty to an unspecified charge, according to a federal affidavit.

Federal authorities also charged city commissioner Miller Dawkins, 71, with soliciting $200,000 in bribes from Unisys while it negotiated a computer contract with the city.

All three surrendered at the federal courthouse, ordered to surrender their passports, and were released on $100,000 bond.

``I have never accepted one dollar outside of my salary,″ said Odio, city manager since 1985. ``And I will prove it.″

Odio’s attorney, Richard Sharpstein, accused Surana of entrapping his client to save himself.

The investigation had become common knowledge and Mayor Joe Carollo already was interviewing candidates for Odio’s $116,900-a-year job.

Investigators accused Odio of conspiring with de Cardenas and Surana to take kickbacks in connection with a city contract with the Cigna insurance company.

A federal affidavit alleged that Odio arranged to have a company owned by de Cardenas hired as a marketing consultant to Cigna, and plotted to take a $5,000-a-month payment from fees that de Cardenas got from the company.

A spokesman for Cigna, of Bloomfield, Conn., said the company was not involved in any illegal activity and none of its employees is part of the federal investigation.

The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office began their investigation more than a year ago after Unisys complained to police that Surana also had solicited a bribe during its negotiations for the computer contract.

If convicted, the three each face up to five years in federal prison and fines of up to $250,000.

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