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Coral Gables mayor and an arrested lobbyist exit from politically connected brokerage

Coral Gables Mayor Vince Lago and a lobbyist who was arrested last week on corruption charges have left a politically connected real estate brokerage that recently made a six-figure commission from a deal with an embattled real estate developer whose business is under federal investigation.

Lago and the lobbyist, William “Bill” Riley, who was arrested Thursday on charges that he bribed a Miami commissioner, disappeared in recent days from the state’s list of registered agents for Rosa Commercial Real Estate.

Lago’s name is no longer affiliated with the brokerage in state records, and his license became inactive on Monday, state records show. Riley’s license became inactive on Sept. 14 — the day of the arrest.

Riley, however, said Tuesday that the events are unrelated. He pointed to the Herald’s reporting last month about a $640,000 commission paid to Rosa Commercial Real Estate in a deal involving developer Rishi Kapoor — whose business dealings are now the subject of investigations by the FBI, SEC and IRS — as the reason for his exit.

“I do not have any active matters with that brokerage firm,” he wrote in a text message. “I haven’t for a very long time. Because of all the allegations involving that firm, which has nothing to do with me, I requested to transfer my license.”

The commission to Rosa Commercial Real Estate came in late 2022 from the sale of a massive lot at 1505 Ponce de Leon Blvd. in Coral Gables to Kapoor’s firm, Location Ventures. At the time of the sale, Lago — who has denied any role in the transaction and has not been accused of any wrongdoing — had recently transferred his real estate license to the brokerage. Lago was also leasing space to Kapoor’s firm in a building he co-owned across the street.

READ MORE: Brokerage tied to Coral Gables mayor nets $640K from property sale to embattled developer

Attorney and lobbyist Bill Riley is lead into TGK in handcuffs after he was charged with money laundering and bribery on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023.
Attorney and lobbyist Bill Riley is lead into TGK in handcuffs after he was charged with money laundering and bribery on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023.

Prior to Riley’s arrest, the mayor and lobbyist were among just five registered sales agents with the firm. Hialeah Mayor Esteban “Steve” Bovo, Lago’s Chief of Staff Chelsea Granell, and another individual Anthony Casas rounded out the roster for the firm, which is owned by Bovo’s stepson, former Hialeah Councilman Oscar De La Rosa.

Today, only Bovo and De La Rosa’s wife, Amanda Bonvecchio, are listed as Rosa Commercial Real Estate agents, in addition to De La Rosa, the registered broker. Bonvecchio was added to the brokerage on Sept. 15, state records show. Granell and Casas’ licenses became inactive that same day, according to the state’s licensure database.

Lago and Granell did not respond to the Herald’s request for comment, nor did De La Rosa. City spokeswoman Martha Pantin said she could not respond to questions on the matter because they are “of a personal nature and not related to the City of Coral Gables.”

During a previous phone interview in July, Riley minimized his business with Rosa Commercial Real Estate, saying that he joined in early 2020, but that he had only closed on “one little deal.” Riley also said he had preexisting relationships with De La Rosa, whom he said he’d known “for many, many years,” as well as Bovo, prior to joining the brokerage, but that he’d interacted with Lago and Granell only in passing at social events.

Riley stands accused of conspiring with Miami City Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla to funnel $245,000 from his clients, David and Leila Centner, into two political committees that were “secretly controlled” by Díaz de la Portilla in pursuit of an athletic complex the couple wanted to build near their school, Centner Academy.

Riley and Díaz de la Portilla both face 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. In addition, Riley is charged with failure to disclose lobbyist expenses. Both have denied the allegations.

This article was updated to include newly available information about the date that Mayor Vince Lago’s license became inactive.