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Miami-Dade prosecutors drafted 52 charges against Rep. David Rivera -- and offered him a deal -- before case fell apart amid tensions with FDLE

In the summer of 2011, the arrest of U.S. Rep. David Rivera seemed all but certain.

Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement had waded through piles of credit-card receipts and banking records, tracing thousands of dollars from Rivera’s political campaigns to his personal accounts. Miami-Dade prosecutors were preparing a “draft” complaint charging the Republican congressman with 52 counts of theft, money laundering and racketeering.

The lengthy probe of Rivera’s finances “unequivocally explains the theft and/or fraud of campaign funds,” FDLE inspector Brett Lycett wrote in a July 5, 2011, e-mail to a prosecutor. “We believe the violations are quite evident.”

But in the ensuing months — after Rivera’s lawyer poked holes in the case — the investigators’ confidence gave way to prosecutors’ increasing skepticism about the potential charges. The 52-count complaint accusing Rivera of systematic misspending of campaign funds was never filed; instead, prosecutors would write a 16-page memo explaining why they believed they could not arrest Rivera for anything.

Newly released e-mails and other records from the Rivera investigation show the increasing tension between the FDLE and the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office as the case dragged on through this past April, when prosecutors — under pressure from the FDLE to make a decision — finally dropped the high-profile case.

Some six months earlier, in November 2011, FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey urged Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle to move more quickly, worried that the time lag would prevent them from bringing some charges against Rivera.

“While I appreciate the need for careful deliberation in matters such as this, I am concerned that the statute of limitations may become an issue if a decision regarding prosecution is further delayed,” Bailey wrote in a Nov. 3 letter to Rundle.

By then — unbeknownst to Bailey or his investigators — Rundle’s prosecutors had already offered to drop the criminal charges against Rivera if the congressman agreed to admit to civil election-law violations, e-mail records show. More here.