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North Miami, Florida, mayor suspended from office after fraud charges

MIAMI (Reuters) - The mayor of North Miami, Florida, was suspended from office by Florida Governor Rick Scott on Tuesday a day after she was charged as part of an alleged $8 million mortgage fraud scheme.

Marie Lucie Tondreau faces up to 30 years in prison for six counts of wire fraud, federal officials said in an unsealed indictment.

She turned herself in to the FBI on Tuesday morning and a judge later ordered her release on $50,000 bail.

"It's a lie," Tondreau told the local ABC TV affiliate in Miami when asked about the allegations.

Tondreau is the fourth Miami area mayor to be indicted in the last year, and the first woman.

Prosecutors allege the 54-year-old Tondreau, who last year was elected North Miami's first female Haitian-American mayor, used her weekly radio show and illegal cash payments to recruit buyers to lie on mortgage applications to obtain loans that were never used to buy homes.

Three others, including a mortgage company owner, a radio show host and a former attorney, were also charged in the indictment.

Manuel Maroño, a former mayor of Sweetwater, another Miami suburb, began serving a 40-month sentence in February after pleading guilty to accepting thousands of dollars of kickbacks for signing off on bogus government grant applications.

He was indicted along with Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Steve Bateman, a former mayor of Homestead, also pleaded not guilty last year on corruption charges for allegedly failing to disclose that he worked as a paid consultant for a health clinic company looking to expand in the city.

Former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina was acquitted by a Miami federal jury in April on charges of conspiring to avoid paying taxes on $2 million in income and lying to authorities.

(Reporting by David Adams; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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