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Florida official investigated for bribery killed in suspicious car accident: Police

May 25, 2016  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
Florida official investigated for bribery killed in suspicious car accident: Police

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A city official in Florida, who was the target of a bribery investigation, was killed in a suspicious single-car crash just one day before he was scheduled to surrender to police, officials say.

Authorities say, Terence Pinder, the 43-year-old commissioner for the city of Opa-Locka, located northwest of Miami, has died under mysterious circumstances, the Associated Press reported.

Investigators say Pinder was the lone occupant when he crashed his city-owned Chevrolet Tahoe SUV into a large banyan tree in an isolated section of Miami-Opa-Locka Executive Airport, which is mostly surrounded by grass and is a distance from many roads.

According to Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Jennifer Capote, the vehicle was discovered around 8 a.m. by a woman walking her dog.

Capote confirmed that police are determining how fast Pinder was driving at the time of the fatal wreck and were also probing if the crash was deliberate.

“It does appear he was driving inside the grassy area at the airport,” Capote said.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said Pinder intended to surrender on Wednesday for an arrest warrant on bribery and unlawful compensation charges.

A criminal complaint accused Pinder of pocketing over $7,000 in bribes to help a businessman, who was working with police, open up a recycling transfer station in the city.

Prosecutors alleged Pinder ensured the businessman received preferential treatment during commission meetings.

Taped phone conversations picked up the businessman asking the commissioner last December if he needed to make another payment to Pinder and even offered to stop by the Pinder’s home to drop off the illegal payoff.

“If you want to come see me, that’s fine. It’s almost Christmas. Where the hell’s Santa?” Pinder said on the recording.

Pinder’s death comes at a difficult time for Opa-Locka, described as an impoverished city struggling with financial difficulty and is also under a separate broader FBI corruption investigation involving other city officials and lobbyists.

The city commission had scheduled an emergency meeting addressing the dire financial situation later Tuesday amid the possibility the state could take over daily operations.

Pinder pleaded no contest to reduced charges and received probation in a previous bribery investigation that concluded in 2014.

Despite his legal troubles, city officials praised Pinder while announcing his death on Tuesday.

“He was known and loved by the young, the elderly and the community at large. He will be missed in the great city of Opa-locka,” the officials said in a written statement.

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