Miami-Dade judge faces suspension after allegedly accepting free RIU Hotel stays

Judge Maria Ortiz is the wife of the former Miami Beach Building Department director who approved permits for the company's Miami Beach resort

Nov.November 01, 2018 06:15 PM

RIU Hotel and Judge Maria Ortiz

The fallout continues in the case of the former Miami Beach building department director who allegedly accepted bribes. His wife, a Miami-Dade County judge, now faces a possible 30-day suspension for failing to disclose free and discounted hotel stays from RIU Hotels & Resorts.

Judge Maria Ortiz of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit received the free trips after her husband, former Miami Beach Building Department Director Mariano Fernandez, allegedly helped RIU Hotels gain permits and approvals for renovations of its Miami Beach hotel, according to Law 360. Her stays included trips to the RIU Hotels & Resorts in Miami Beach, Punta Cana and Playa del Carmen in Mexico, the publication reported.

Ortiz never reported the free trips on judicial disclosure forms as required, Law360 reported. She also admitted that she failed to make a reasonable inquiry into her finances, including the hotel trips, even after the State Attorney’s Office reached out about possible irregularities.

In 2016, 89 people associated with the Miami Beach Building Department, including employees and their families, stayed at the RIU resort Playa del Carmen Mexico for a significant discount, according to Law 360.

The free and discounted rooms came after Fernandez granted the hotel company the permits it needed for the renovation of its Hotel RIU Plaza Miami Beach in 2014. Fernandez and RIU Chairman Luis Riu Guell Jr. are now facing corruption charges over the alleged bribery scheme. [Law360] — Keith Larsen

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