The city of Tallahassee turned over 90,000 pages to the FBI. We help you picture it.
If Mike Miller was the Atlanta businessman representing Southern Pines Development by day, Mike Sweets was the fun-loving investment partner who joined Miller at night to entertain local officials and business owners.
The two of them, along with a third partner rubbed shoulders with local politicians and business people at Florida State football games, rap concerts at the Civic Center, College Town clubs Recess and Madison Social, and political fundraisers at the Edison.
Miller never opened his wallet. Sweets, with his sunglasses pushing back his shoulder-length blonde surfer hair, was there to pick up the tab and put people at ease.
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Claiming to be a medical marijuana entrepreneur from out west, he'd spread the cash around, saying he couldn't put it in a bank, sources have told the Tallahassee Democrat.
It's believed they were undercover FBI agents, along with the other partner, who went by the name of Brian Butler and posed as the head of an energy efficiency company.
Their job was to lure local politicians into a pay-to-play sting as part of a local FBI public corruption investigation into the Tallahassee Community Redevelopment Agency and some of its biggest business partners, sources said.
Two of the people named in FBI subpoenas delivered to the city and the CRA in June are in the medical marijuana business in Florida, Kim Rivers as owner of Trulieve, and Adam Corey as a lobbyist for San Felasco nurseries.
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Butler and Sweets on occasion sat in with Miller on his meetings with city and county officials last year to discuss moving the CRA boundaries to include property he was considering for development.
Miller did most of the talking while Butler and Sweets sat quietly, said County Commissioner Nick Maddox, who is also the current chair of the CRA.
"I don't recall much about them and they didn't ask for much," Maddox said.
He did note that when he first met them they were less formally dressed than the developers he normally met during business hours.
A photo obtained by the Democrat shows the three of them casually dressed with wide open collars.
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Three city commissioners — Nancy Miller, Curtis Richardson and Gil Ziffer — have said they've not met the men, individually or in a group.
Upon the advice of the city attorney, Commissioner Scott Maddox has declined to comment on whether he met the three men.
Mayor Andrew Gillum had an appointment to meet with Miller and Butler over Tapas and drinks in May 2016 according to email from the mayor's office. As far as he knew, the meeting occurred, Gillum spokesman Jamie Van Pelt said.
Sweets bears an uncanny resemblance to an an undercover agent that was part of a multi-year corruption investigation in California that put a state senator in federal prison.
Same name. Same M.O. Same medical marijuana cover story.
"The pay-to-play scheme is exactly the same," said a source close to the investigation.
Court documents show Sweets was integral to a years-long investigation that brought down California State Senator Leland Yee of San Francisco, his fundraiser and former school board president Keith Jackson, reputed Bay Area gangster Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, and several others.
Sweets told Yee he was an Arizona resident involved in the medical marijuana business who wanted to be the “Anheuser Busch” of medical marijuana in California. Sweets said he was looking for favorable statewide legislation that would "regularize the industry" and conform with his business model.
Information provided to the Tallahassee Democrat shows that Corey flew out to Arizona in April to meet and have dinner with Sweets, a month after Corey first met Miller.
Four years earlier, Sweets targeted Yee, who had amassed $70,000 in debt from his failed mayoral race and wanted to start up a campaign for secretary of state.
"It is clear that Yee intended financial assistance and he was preparing to sell his vote to the stakeholder who paid the most — the owners or the players," the sentencing document said.
Sweets, also referred to as “UCE 4180” in court documents, posed as a “very blunt-speaking entrepreneur who was not shy about overtly asking for official acts in exchange for payment,” the sentencing document said. Yee “admonished” Sweets not to be so open about his quid pro quo talk and walked away.
But Sweets told Yee and his campaign manager he would pay for meetings with lawmakers who were connected with potential marijuana legislation. Sweets paid Yee $21,000 to arrange for two meetings.
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At another meeting at a steakhouse, Sweets gave Yee an envelope with $5,000 in it.
Yee referred to Sweets as a “street punk who wants to make some money.” Yee also said Sweets insinuated their arrangement was a “long-term investment” that Yee needed to continue helping them with.
Yee told them if he won, he would have eight years to help him out.
But when Sweets asked to meet with another senator, Yee said, ". That's pay to play and you can't do that. You cannot connect. You could go to jail like that, man."
But it was Yee who went to prison, after accepting a plea deal for five years in prison on one count of racketeering.
“It must be that the public has trust in the integrity of the institution, and Mr. Yee, you abused that trust,” U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said at Yee's sentencing. “You showed you did not have integrity in your actions.”