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David Rivera, on radio, calls Herald story a lie. But did he read it?

Congressman-elect David Rivera went on a previously scheduled Spanish-language radio program Friday evening and inevitably had to talk about a Miami Herald story linking him to a secret gambling deal during his tenure in the Florida House.

In a softball interview -- more like a platform for Rivera to discuss his views on U.S. policy toward Cuba -- on Radio Mambi's La Mesa Redonda with Armando Pérez Roura, Rivera accused The Herald of lying. He claimed Friday's story said the owners of the Flagler Dog Track hired him and paid him to help run a political campaign backed by the track to win voter approval for Las Vegas-style slot machines at parimutuel venues in Miami-Dade County.

"It's completely false," Rivera said.

The thing is, the story explained the dog track -- now called the Magic City Casino -- made $510,000 in payments to Millennium Marketing, a company currently co-managed by Rivera's 70-year-old mother, Daisy Magarino, and his godmother, Ileana Medina. Investigators are still trying to determine if Rivera himself received any of the money, or if anything about the transaction was illegal, according to sources close to the inquiry.

Rivera did not refer to Millennium or its principals by name on the radio, instead talking about a "local business, a small business, that designated me the point of contact" on its contract with the track.

Of note is this portion of Friday's story:

But Roberto Martinez, an attorney for the dog track, said it was Rivera who first approached the track owners in 2006 asking to manage the slots campaign, and it was Rivera who suggested that the contract go through Millennium, rather than to Rivera directly. Flagler's contract with Millennium was signed by both Rivera and Medina.

Flagler's owners "wanted to make sure they retained David's personal services,'' Martinez said. Flagler's owners never dealt with Medina or Rivera's mother, Daisy Magarino, who was named a corporate officer of Millennium days after the Flagler contract expired.

In a later statement to The Herald, Rivera confirmed that he suggested the contract with Millennium after Flagler's owners "expressed interest'' in pursuing the referendum.

In October, while campaigning for Congress, Rivera told The Herald he only "helped'' with the slots vote, and denied having a management role in the parimutuel campaign or receiving any payment.

But under the October 2006 agreement with Flagler, Rivera was described as the "strategic director'' of the pro-slots campaign, and its "Top Leader of Chain of Command of All Campaign Consultants and Campaign Activities,'' according to the contract, which was reviewed by The Miami Herald.

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