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The Rivera files: Congressman denies investigation -- despite prosecutor's email

Picture 23Congressman David Rivera has been under investigation for more than a year. And for just as long, Rivera has denied it all, most recently Monday morning on US1 Radio in the Florida Keys where veteran host Bill Becker tried to get Rivera to talk about the cases.

A little history: Rivera was first investigated by the state and then the feds in connection with a secret $500,000 dog track payment. Now, he faces a second federal grand-jury investigation into whether he helped illegally steered secret money to a candidate who tried to undermine a rival (some background here).

Initially, Rivera denied he was under any investigation at all. He even denied hiring a lawyer on July 21, 2011 (see the answer to the last question here). By then, records show, his criminal defense attorney Michael Band had been on the case for about two months by that point (see the attached JPEG, click to enlarge).

Band did his work. He helped Rivera avoid 52 state charges (more background here).

Rivera is still denying that the feds opened an investigation tied to him -- this despite on-the-record comments from people who have been interviewed by the FBI and the IRS. Rivera essentially denied it again Monday when he tried to steer Becker away from talk of the cops so he could stay on message about jobs and the economy.

Becker: "You know and I know that that's not what the voters are talking about. They're talking about your ongoing investigations by the FBI, the grand jury, the FDLE regarding your activities as of late... Your involvement in the campaign of Justin Lamar Sternad..."

Rivera: "The fact of the matter is no voters have actually talked to me about that. I know the Miami Herald has talked a lot about it. But the fact is, for the last two years, The Miami Herald has been talking about supposed federal investigations, FBI, IRS, CIA, KGB, ABC, XYZ. But the real fact is, Bill, no federal agency -- none whatsoever -- has ever confirmed or stated that I'm under investigation for anything, actually. So I've been able to focus on issues like jobs and the economy, while perhaps some other publications want to focus on other issues...."

As for the state investigation, here's a taste: 213 pages (4.4 MB) worth of emails and documents for the public to peruse Download DAVID RIVERA EMAILS_Redacted-1. The correspondence is primarily between the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforecement. It details questionable and, in the eyes of FDLE investigator Brett Lycett, illegal use of funds by Rivera on everything from from airline trips to dental visits to gas station purchases to expenses for girlfriends.

If any of this is considered unreported income by Rivera, the IRS has its work cut out for it.

As for the federal investigation Rivera denied, here's confirmation from prosecutor Joe Centorino in an email he sent to Investigator Lycett at 11:29 a.m. on June 2 2011: "The feds are getting more active. They recently interviewed the Havenicks," who own the dog track at the center of the initial probe. That document is attached on this blog as JPEG for easy viewing.

The document also shows that Rivera had a lawyer, Band, even though two months later he said he hadn't hired one.

Rivera has been loathe to talk about the case with the Miami news media (albeit, he goes on some Spanish-language programs that treat him with kid gloves). Last week, he avoided reporters' questions  during a press conference in his local congressional office. He said he couldn't talk about the investigations because he was in a federal office.

That's an entirely new standard for Rivera.

When he was sworn in, in 2011, he was in his congressional office while talking about the dog-track case with CBS4's Michael Williams, who noted that Rivera misled the public when he said he didn't get "a penny" from the dog-track for helping with a referendum campaign to legalize Las Vegas-style slot machines in Miami-Dade.

Here's the exchange from CBS4:

WILLIAMS: “No, I asked if you took a single penny from Millennium.”

RIVERA: “Well, I haven’t taken a single penny of income from Millennium or any other source associated with the 2008 referendum.”

Rivera argued that since a loan is different from income he wasn’t really changing his story.