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The Rivera files: Why Mr Sternad didn’t go to Washington


Lamar Will Take Us Far.

The catchy slogan of the congressional candidate who called himself Lamar Sternad was the earliest indication of a campaign of deception. His first name isn’t Lamar.

But Justin Lamar Sternad’s slogan was spot-on in one regard.

Of the hundreds of no-name political neophytes who mount quixotic bids for office in Miami, Sternad went farther than them all: The 10th floor of a federal justice building.

There in open court Friday, Sternad was formally accused of violating three federal laws stemming from his suspicious campaign finances, which were first uncovered in an investigation by The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald.

Sternad earned the distinction of running a truly far out campaign, one of the most-cynical, scandalous and strange South Florida has ever seen.

And that’s saying something.

His campaign involved false federal campaign finance reports, at least $81,486 in secret checks and cash (much of it in $100 bills stuffed in envelopes), a bad-boy of Miami politics, and a femme fatale of a campaign consultant, Ana Alliegro. Years before, Alliegro fired a gun at her ex-husband, saying the firearm was akin to her penis, which was more powerful than his, investigative reports said. She also had been busted for shoplifting.

Alliegro’s whereabouts are unclear to the public. She skipped out on talking with the FBI in September. The prevailing rumor is that she’s overseas.

Her close friend, former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, is the feds’ ultimate target.

The Miami Republican, who denies wrongdoing, is suspected by investigators and accused by campaign vendors of helping secretly back Sternad to undermine a rival, Joe Garcia, in the Democratic primary for Congressional District 26, which stretches to Key West.

Garcia’s now a congressman.

Sternad’s now a defendant. He’s cooperating with the feds, who could have charged him with more-serious crimes like money-laundering.

Alliegro and Rivera aren’t named in Sternad’s federal charging document, which lists nameless “co-conspirators.”

But without Alliegro, it could be a challenge prosecuting Rivera.

Coincidentally, Sternad launched his masquerade of a campaign on the holiday that celebrates disguises: Halloween. In a letter dated Oct. 31, 2011, he notified the state of his intention to run.

Was he a plant, a ringer for Rivera, from the get-go? Or was he like so many other folks with no political experience who decide to run for office in the hopes of making a Mr.-Smith-Goes-to-Washington difference?

“I’m running for Congress because right now there’s a high discontent with the recycling of establishment politicians,” Sternad said in a May interview with CBS4’s Elliot Rodriguez.

Days later, he started receiving the unreported cash that would be his downfall, federal records show.

Full column here