July 06, 2016

Appeals court OKs ethics fine against David Rivera

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@PatriciaMazzei

A Tallahassee appeals court on Wednesday upheld an ethics censure against former state Rep. David Rivera, a Miami Republican who is running again for the Florida House, now as a newly minted millionaire.

The First District Court of Appeal “summarily” rejected Rivera’s contention that the $57,821.96 fine recommended last year by an administrative law judge was improper due to “procedural errors” by the Florida Commission on Ethics.

“Rivera did not challenge the ethical violations found by the Commission and we find no merit in the due process claims he raised on appeal,” the court wrote.

However, the court left open the possibility for Rivera to sue again — if the House speaker ultimately imposes the fine.

One of Rivera’s arguments had been that it’s unconstitutional for the speaker to discipline a former House member. Florida law requires the speaker — not the ethics commission or administrative judge — to penalize a lawmaker found in violation of ethics rules. The court said it couldn’t rule on that question until if and when the speaker fines Rivera, because the disciplinary process won’t be “complete” until the speaker takes action.

More here.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald

June 30, 2016

Will secret lockbox contents shed light on how David Rivera got rich?

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@PatriciaMazzei

How ex-U.S. Rep. David Rivera, now a Republican candidate for the statehouse, became a million-dollar man in his three years out of political office remains an enigma.

The most obvious explanation has been that he inherited his newfound wealth from his late mother, who died in 2013.

Daisy Magarino, who also went by Daisy Rivera, left no will, according to records in Miami-Dade County probate court. But she did keep a safety-deposit box at a Doral bank.

What was inside? Who knows? Like much of David Rivera’s finances, what was inside the lockbox remains a secret.

Its contents could solve the puzzle of what happened to her estate. But there’s no public accounting of them, even though a judge ordered one.

Magarino’s daughter, Diana Rivera McKenzie, asked the judge for permission to open the box. Her reasoning: A will might be inside. Her brother, the former congressman, raised no objection.

Go ahead, Judge Michael Genden said. In December 2014, he ordered the box unlocked.

Eighteen months later, there is still no record of what the Riveras found — or even if they opened the box. Despite the judge’s order that an inventory of the box’s contents be “immediately” filed with the court, no such list has been turned in.

Did Magarino leave behind a will? Jewels? Property deeds? Gold doubloons? Nothing but personal mementos?

More here.

Photo credit: Charles Dharapak, Associated Press

June 24, 2016

David Rivera, millionaire? So says his latest financial disclosure

@PatriciaMazzei

In the three years since former U.S. Rep. David Rivera left Congress -- unceremoniously, after a single term and under the cloud of a federal criminal investigation -- he’s managed to significantly grow his personal wealth, even as what he does for a living has remained a mystery.

He’s worth more than $1.5 million, according to a financial disclosure form he filed this week to qualify as a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives. The last time he publicly declared his finances, in a 2012 congressional form that didn’t require a net-worth estimate, he listed just two assets -- neither of which suggested he had the makings of a millionaire.

Most of Rivera’s newfound wealth lies outside the U.S., in a pair of overseas bank accounts in Mexico and Taiwan each worth more than $300,000, his disclosure shows. He also owns three properties in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula worth $250,000, $100,000 and $50,000, respectively.

How Rivera acquired the money and the properties is unknown. He did not respond to questions a Miami Herald reporter emailed him Thursday afternoon.

For years, Rivera has claimed to be a business development consultant, an amorphous profession with unidentified clients. The only income source listed in his latest disclosure, for calendar year 2015, is $104,000. The money came from Xemma Holdings S.A. de C.V., a company in Merida, Mexico, “in partnership” with Interamerican Consulting, Rivera’s corporate entity registered at his Doral home.

More here.

Read Rivera's latest disclosure.

June 07, 2016

Former U.S. Rep. David Rivera back in court

1st dca - June 7, 2016

@ByKristenMClark

In the latest development in a years-long ethics case against former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, an attorney for the Miami Republican argued before an appeals court on Tuesday that the speaker of the Florida House has no legal authority to impose penalties on former state lawmakers who violate ethics rules while in office.

Seeking to overturn ethics violations against Rivera, his attorney Leonard Collins argued that it’s unconstitutional for state law to give authority to the House speaker or Senate president in doling out punishment for former lawmakers.

And even if appeals judges rule that that practice is OK, Collins argued that Rivera’s case should still be reconsidered because, he said, the Florida Commission on Ethics violated Rivera’s due process rights by committing “procedural errors” when it handled Rivera’s case.

An attorney for the commission defended how the case was handled but, in a painfully awkward moment, she offered no response when the three-judge appeals panel questioned why it’s allowable for the House speaker to have sole discretion in executing punishments for former House members — but a decision by the full House is needed to penalize current lawmakers.

“I can’t answer that,” assistant attorney general Elizabeth Miller said during the hearing before the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.

Read more here.

May 15, 2016

Carlos Curbelo cut David Rivera a check in 2012 but says he didn't end up voting for him

@PatriciaMazzei

Carlos Curbelo admitted to a Miami radio station recently that he didn't vote in the 2012 congressional election between then-incumbent Republican Rep. David Rivera and Democratic challenger Joe Garcia.

“When it became apparent that both those campaigns had been involved in unethical and illegal activities — because people went to jail from both campaigns — I did not vote in that election,” he told WIOD, as we reported in our story about Curbelo's political future.

Rivera is now running for the Florida House of Representatives. Garcia, who won the 2012 election and then lost to Curbelo in 2014, is running in the Democratic primary to try to oust Curbelo in November.

Curbelo may not have voted for Rivera, his fellow Republican, in 2012. But he did give him a financial contribution: $1,000 on June 29 of that year, campaign records show. The donation came before the Miami Herald revealed suspicious ties between Rivera and a ringer Democratic candidate.

But even before then, Rivera had found himself on shaky legal and ethical ground. Earlier Herald reporting led to a 2010 state investigation into Rivera's questionable use of campaign finances. Those investigations ended without charges in April 2012, a few months before Curbelo wrote his check. (A pair of separate investigations by the FBI and IRS appeared to be ongoing at the time but never went anywhere.)

So why back Rivera despite his prior troubles -- but then not vote for him?

"Once it became clear that the campaign had recruited and illegally financed a straw candidate, I no longer felt comfortable being supportive," Curbelo told the Herald in an email Saturday. "At first I figured it would be better to support him against Joe Garcia who had always shown a penchant for dishonesty, nastiness, and manipulation. Later we discovered that in fact Garcia pioneered the concept of attempting to rig elections by using straw candidates. It's all disgusting."

April 20, 2016

A GOP battle royale in South Dade: Lynda Bell vs. David Rivera

@PatriciaMazzei

Setting up a South Florida Republican battle royale, former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell plans to run for a Florida House of Representatives seat -- against former U.S. Rep. David Rivera.

Bell, who announced her candidacy late Tuesday at a meeting of the Old Cutler Republican Women's Club, told the Miami Herald on Wednesday that she looked at two open House seats in South Dade before settling on District 118, which includes neighborhoods she represented in her four-year term on the commission

"I'm not here to beat up on David Rivera, but I know I served 10 years in office, and I feel like I have a lot to offer," said Bell, who previously served as Homestead mayor. "I've accomplished very, very much."

Bell doesn't live in the district, which extends from West Miami-Dade to Richmond Heights, but said she'd move there by Election Day, as required by law. She thought about running in neighboring District 114 -- also not her home district -- but said she didn't want to challenge one of the Republicans already running, John Couriel, whom she called "a really great guy."

Neither of her choices was ideal: Both districts are heavily Hispanic, especially among likely Republican primary voters. Bell's long-shot bid might be based on the idea that other Hispanic Republicans could split the vote to her benefit, given her name recognition, but winning probably won't be easy.

More here.

March 16, 2016

David Rivera says he's filed to run again for Florida House

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@PatriciaMazzei

Now that his friend Marco Rubio is out of the Republican presidential race, former U.S. Rep. David Rivera plans to formally get back into politics.

Rivera emailed supporters Wednesday, the day after Rubio’s candidacy ended, to say he’s filed to run for the Florida House of Representatives, where Rivera began his political career.

“Exciting News!” read the subject line for the email, sent from Rivera’s personal Comcast account. “Today I launched my candidacy for the Florida House of Representatives in District 118!”

Florida’s Division of Elections didn’t show any Rivera paperwork Wednesday night, though there is sometimes a lag in when documents get posted.

The former congressman first revealed his plans to try to return to the Florida Legislature back in 2014. On Election Day that year, he showed up at at least one Southwest Miami-Dade County precinct to collect petition signatures to qualify for the 2016 ballot.

In his email Wednesday, Rivera bragged that the “best part” about his new candidacy is, “I have already gathered nearly 2,000 petition signatures from voters within the district who want me to serve as their representative in Tallahassee.”

More here.

March 10, 2016

David Rivera's ex-con ex-girlfriend says she called cops on him

via @ChuckRabin

Add another strange episode to one of South Florida’s longest running political soap operas:

Ana Alliegro, an ex-con who admitted to breaking campaign-finance laws, told police that former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, the suspected mastermind behind the scheme that landed her in jail two years ago, fell asleep at her home two weeks ago. And when he was asked to leave, she said the ex-congressman and state representative from Miami grabbed her arm and took her cell phone camera.

She called the cops. When they arrived, Rivera wasn’t there.

“He didn’t beat me up or anything,” she said during a telephone interview Thursday from her Miami home. “It was simple assault.”

But Rivera, still under the cloud of a federal investigation into his involvement in the 2012 scandal, flatly denies the encounter ever took place. He said he was in Tallahassee when Alliegro claims he stalked her — and that she threatened suicide if he didn’t drive down to Miami to see her.

“After my conversations with state and federal law enforcement officials, I have no doubt she will be prosecuted for perjury and filing a false police report and sent back to prison for committing a felony while on probation,” Rivera said in an email.

More here.

February 03, 2016

Marco Rubio's friend David Rivera traveled to Iowa for caucuses

Unnamed

@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio has kept David Rivera, his longtime friend and former Miami congressman who is under investigation by the feds, at a distance as he runs for president.

But Rivera hasn’t kept a distance from Rubio’s presidential bid.

Rivera traveled to Iowa ahead of Monday’s caucuses, visiting the eastern portion of the state and at meeting with other Rubio friends and volunteers to watch the results Monday night.

One of them posted a photograph of Rivera and three others posing at a Hooters restaurant in Davenport. In the picture, Rivera is giving a thumbs-up.

Dana Hudson, a Washington lobbyist and Rubio backer, posted the photo on Facebook. She appeared next to Rivera, along with Miami pollster Dario Moreno and Rafael “Ralph” Perez, a former aide to then-state Rep. Rubio. (Perez is also giving a thumbs-up.)

Hudson declined to comment. Perez told a reporter he hadn’t seen the photo. Rivera did not respond to a request for comment.

Moreno said he and Perez volunteered for Rubio’s campaign, knocking on voters’ doors and telephoning them, but Rivera did not participate in those activities.

“David was just, you know, watching the returns, kind of staying away from the campaigns,” Moreno said. “He wasn’t connected to the campaign – I know for a fact he wasn’t. He was sort of doing stuff on his own.”

“Everybody was out there – I mean, half of Florida was in Iowa,” Moreno added. “At least half of the Republican part of Florida.”

Rubio spokesman Alex Conant said he didn't know why Rivera was around. "We didn't see him," he said.

In the past, Rubio’s aides, aware of the negative publicity surrounding Rivera, have been adamant that the ex-congressman has had no involvement in their effort. He showed up at the first GOP debate in Cleveland last August, and then at a debate in Madison, Wisconsin, last November. Both times, Rubio’s team insisted it hadn’t given the ex-congressman tickets. Rivera credited his access to the many political friends he’s cultivated over the years.

The former congressman has been the target of a federal criminal investigation in Miami into an illegal campaign-finance scheme that secretly financed a ringer Democratic candidate in 2012. He served in the Florida House of Representatives as Rubio’s budget chief, and the two used to own a Tallahassee home together.

Rubio has stood by his old friend throughout the years, saying he hopes Rivera can put his troubles behind him.

Photo via Facebook

November 19, 2015

Could Marco Rubio's rise in the presidential race further delay federal investigation into David Rivera?

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@PatriciaMazzei @jayhweaver

Federal prosecutors have circled David Rivera for three years, trying to build a strong enough criminal case to prove the former Miami Republican congressman propped up a ringer candidate in the 2012 election.

They got the ringer, Justin Lamar Sternad, to confess, and sent him to prison. They chased the woman who secretly funneled more than $81,000 to Sternad — Ana Alliegro, Rivera’s ex-girlfriend — to her Nicaragua hideout, and sent her to prison, too. They even got Alliegro, once out of prison, to testify to a grand jury that it was Rivera who had plotted the illegal campaign-finance scheme. 

That was almost a year ago. To date, the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami has filed no charges against Rivera — or closed the investigation against him.

“The judge had them name David Rivera as ‘Co-Conspirator A,’ and David Rivera has not been charged,” lamented Alliegro’s father, Anselmo Alliegro. “Nothing seems to be moving in that direction.”

As 2015 draws to a close, prosecutors may choose to wait even longer to resolve the case.

They have until 2017 to file charges, under the federal statute of limitations. And if Rivera’s friend and former housemate Marco Rubio continues to rise in the 2016 Republican presidential race, prosecutors may want to steer clear of the politically charged case, to avoid the appearance of meddling with an election.

More here.

Photo credit: Hector Gabino, el Nuevo Herald