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Suspected Rivera-ringer drops at least $24k in cash on campaign mailers, might've broken law

A Democratic congressional candidate may have violated federal campaign-finance laws after spending at least $24,000 in cash on mailers without disclosing the source of the funds.

Justin Lamar Sternad, one of several candidates who lost Tuesday’s District 26 Democratic primary election to Joe Garcia, paid for the mailers in cash. The work was done by Rapid Mail & Computer Services, a well-known Hialeah mail firm, owner John Borrero told The Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald.

Borrero estimated that each of Sternad’s six mailers cost $4,000 to $5,000. He said Sternad paid him, beginning in August, on repeated occasions. The payments could have totaled as much as $30,000.

“He came in and paid for them in cash,” Borrero said, adding that other campaigns had paid with cash but that many pay with a check.

Garcia and Democratic candidates in the other campaigns have claimed Sternad was a plant from the campaign of Republican Rep. David Rivera, who faces Garcia in the general election.

Rivera and Sternad, a 35-year-old Cutler Bay resident, have denied that he is a ringer.

Rivera, like many Republicans, is among Rapid Mail’s former clients. Rivera’s congressional campaign spent about $16,000 with Rapid Mail in 2010, when he bested Garcia.

Asked by The Herald if there was a connection to Rivera in the mailings, Borrero said that Sternad came to his warehouse to make the payments by himself.

Sternad’s Federal Election Commission reports and personal financial filings give little indication that he could afford the mailers or the nearly $11,000 he loaned his campaign.

Married to a wife with no income, Sternad earned less than $30,000 working for two South Beach hotels last year, according to his financial disclosures. As of this July, when his sole employer was the Wyndham Garden South Beach, he earned $14,490.

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