June 09, 2014

Judges says Rivera violated ethics laws by double-dipping on expenses

David RiveraFrom the News Service of Florida

An administrative law judge is calling for Florida's ethics commission to find that former state Rep. David Rivera improperly received state travel reimbursements and did not adequately disclose financial information.

Judge W. David Watkins issued a 37-page recommended order Friday that delved into Rivera's personal finances and his use of political campaign funds. The recommendation goes to the state Commission on Ethics, which will make a final determination.

Rivera, R-Miami, served in the state House from 2002 to 2010, before getting elected to Congress. He served one term in Washington and lost a re-election bid to Democrat Joe Garcia amid numerous ethics-related questions. Rivera is running this year to try to regain the Congressional District 26 seat.

Watkins wrote that Rivera, on numerous occasions, received reimbursements from the state for travel expenses that were paid by his campaign accounts. The judge wrote that Rivera commingled personal expenses, political expenses and state House expenses on multiple credit cards, rather than having a designated credit card for his official legislative duties.

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May 07, 2014

Marco Rubio tells Politico he doesn't plan to endorse in David Rivera's Republican primary

@PatriciaMazzei

POLITICO caught up Wednesday in the U.S. Capitol with Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who said he doesn't plan to endorse former Tallahassee housemate David Rivera in the upcoming Republican primary for Congressional District 26.

"I'm not getting involved in that primary. Because I don't typically get involved in House primaries, especially in open races," Rubio told the publication. He plans to support the eventual Republican nominee in the November general election against Miami Democrat Joe Garcia, who defeated then-incumbent Rivera two years ago.

Rivera is under federal investigation in a campaign-finance scheme involving his friend Ana Alliegro, who helped manage the 2012 campaign of a little-known Democratic candidate named Justin Lamar Sternad.

Sternad has admitted that his Democratic primary campaign was funded with about $82,000 in illegal campaign contributions. He identified Alliegro as the source of money. The feds say she was aided by at least one unnamed "co-conspirator."

Rivera's entry into the race stunned the Miami political establishment last week. Two of his former House colleagues, Miami Republicans Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, had already backed Miami-Dade School Board Carlos Curbelo and said they would maintain those endorsements.

Shortly after Rivera's announcement, two of his ex-congressional staffers -- former legislative director Hector Arguello and former deputy district director Ariel Fernandez -- endorsed Curbelo. "We need leaders who can focus on the work at hand and actively represent the people," they said in a statement. 

People close to Rubio have said they are none too thrilled about Rivera's latest campaign. Rivera and Rubio, both former state lawmakers, jointly own a Tallahassee home that, at one point, began to go into foreclosure.

May 02, 2014

Video: David Rivera files for Congress, ducks questions about federal probe: "Email me."

@MarcACaputo

Under federal investigation, former U.S. Rep. David Rivera filed for Congress on Thursday, chatting with fellow candidates in line while refusing to talk to The Miami Herald about his legal challenges.

“You can email me,” Rivera said repeatedly.

Rivera said he would take questions if they were in Spanish and said he planned to talk to camera crew that was under contract with Telemundo to cover his filing.

“I’d rather get the sound privately,” Rivera told reporter Mike Vasilinda as they stood in the Florida Division of Elections office.

Asked what he had to hide, Rivera refused to answer.

"If you have a question in English, you can email me,” he told The Herald when asked about a federal investigation into campaign-finance violations, which has resulted in one conviction and the indictment of Rivera’s close friend.

Rivera was far more talkative the night before on “Ahora con Oscar Haza,” a show on Spanish-language Mega TV where he announced he would run against Democratic incumbent Joe Garcia, who beat the Republican U.S. representative in a 2012 race.

Continue reading "Video: David Rivera files for Congress, ducks questions about federal probe: "Email me."" »

May 01, 2014

Under federal investigation, ex-Rep. David Rivera announces he'll run for congress again

@MarcACaputo and @LuisaYanez27

David Rivera, the former Miami congressman under investigation in a complicated campaign-financing scheme, said Thursday night that he intends to run again for the United States House of Representatives.

Rivera made his announcement on Spanish-language Mega TV and wouldn’t talk about the federal investigation, claiming it was the result of lies propagated by The Miami Herald, whose investigative work has resulted in one federal conviction and the recent federal indictment of the Republican’s close friend.

“I will not answer to the lies of the Miami Herald,” Rivera said on the political talk show Ahora con Oscar Haza.

“I will not deviate from the issues and [will] defeat Joe Garcia. "Rivera said he’s running due to a “leadership crisis,” calling Garcia “incompetent.”

Garcia declined comment about Rivera, who beat Garcia in 2010. Rivera then lost to the Democrat by about 10 percentage points in a 2012 rematch in the newly drawn District 26 boundaries that stretch from the Miami area to Key West.

Rivera’s announcement stunned Florida’s tough-to-surprise political world.

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April 11, 2014

Ana Alliegro denied pre-trial release after prosecutor describes flight to Nicaragua

Ana Alliegro had just surrendered her passport to the FBI and was told by her lawyer that she was facing jail time for her alleged role in a campaign-finance conspiracy tied to former Congressman David Rivera.

Alliegro didn’t stick around.

Along with “another individual,” a federal prosecutor said Friday, Alliegro fled the United States last fall by hopping on a flight to Texas, boarding a Greyhound Bus to Mexico — where a U.S. passport isn’t needed for entry — and then flying to her Central America hideout.

“The next thing we know, she’s back in Nicaragua,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas J. Mulvihill said Friday in federal court. “Instead of coming to the FBI as she promised, she flees the country.”

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March 07, 2014

Busted in Nicaragua: ex-Rep. David Rivera's gal pal, Ana Alliegro, in FBI custody over campaign scheme

@MarcACaputo @Patricia Mazzei

Alliegro w copsAna Alliegro, the gal pal of former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, was arrested and informally extradited Friday from Nicaragua to Miami, where a federal grand jury charged her in a four-count indictment for her alleged role in a campaign-finance scheme tied to the one-time congressman.

She will be locked up in a federal detention center until her first court appearance Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick White.

Alliegro had fled to Nicaragua in 2012 as the FBI began investigating her and Rivera in a scheme to steer and conceal $82,000 in illegal campaign contributions to a no-name congressional candidate, who appeared to be doing Rivera’s political dirty work.

That candidate, Justin Lamar Sternad, subsequently pleaded guilty to breaking federal campaign-finance laws and lying about it.

Now, the 44-year-old Alliegro faces charges of helping Sternad make false statements on his campaign reports and of making illegal contributions well in excess of federal campaign limits. If convicted, she faces up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each count.

Rivera has not been charged. Neither Alliegro nor Rivera, who have long denied wrongdoing, could be reached for comment.

The indictment against Alliegro lists unnamed co-conspirators.

Story is here

Download Alliegro, Ana Indictment (1) 

February 26, 2014

David Rivera named by Sternad in campaign-contribution scandal

@MarcACaputo

For the first time, a convicted congressional candidate has stated in federal records that U.S. Rep. David Rivera was a part of the conspiracy to funnel illegal contributions to his campaign.

Justin Lamar Sternad said in three recent Federal Elections Commission filings that a total of $81,486.15 in illegal campaign contributions were coordinated or tied to “Ana Alliegro and/or David Rivera.”

The revelations about the two come nearly a year after Sternad’s March 15 guilty plea on counts of accepting illegal campaign contributions, conspiracy and making a false statement on an FEC report.

Sternad’s sentencing has been repeatedly delayed. He’s cooperating with federal investigators who are trying to bring charges against Rivera and Alliegro.

“To those who think this case has gone away: You’re wrong,” said Enrique “Rick” Yabor, a lawyer for Sternad, who last month amended three of his FEC reports to note the involvement of Alliegro and Rivera in his 2012 Democratic primary race for Congressional District 26.

Full story here

November 21, 2013

Where’s Ana Alliegro? Mystery woman might have disappeared — again.

@MarcACaputo

Here today. Gone tomorrow. Maybe to Nicaragua. Maybe not.

Ana Alliegro is again shrouded in mystery.

The self-styled conservative “bad girl” at the center of a federal criminal investigation into a former Miami congressman, Alliegro appeared to have left town and claimed on her Facebook page last week that she was in Granada, Nicaragua.

Again.

But no one’s sure

It’s unclear if Alliegro, who surrendered her passport to authorities when she returned to the United States late last month, left with federal approval. Some sources indicate she departed without permission, but they can’t see how she could have entered a foreign country without her passport.

Her Facebook page makes it sound as if she’s much happier in Nicaragua.

“There are more ingrates than Mosquitos carrying Dengue in Miami than in Nicaragua,” she wrote on her page last week. “Thank God, I came back to Granada.”

Story here

September 12, 2013

DCCC mailers boosted faux Miami Tea Party candidate now under FBI investigation

@MarcACaputo

Arrojo1a
Roly Arrojo, a phony former Tea Party congressional candidate now under federal investigation, barely received any votes in 2010, but it wasn’t for lack of trying by Democrats quietly propping him up.

A top former advisor of current U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia secretly orchestrated an Arrojo mailer during the campaign, a consultant recently told the FBI and Miami Herald. Garcia said he had no knowledge of the potentially unlawful activity to fraudulently disguise campaign spending.

Beyond Garcia’s campaign, Arrojo received even more help from the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which sent two more batches of mailers. Unlike the 18,000 mailers linked to Garcia’s campaign, the DCCC mailers might not have been illegal.

The point of the three mailers – whose combined costs could have exceeded $30,000 -- was clear: siphon votes from Republican David Rivera to help Garcia.

A DCCC spokesman said the organization did nothing improper and broke no laws forbidding coordination between federal campaigns and outside groups.

Arrojo2“We were not involved in the Arrojo campaign in any way,” spokesman David Bergstein said, who wouldn’t elaborate.

The mailers related to Arrojo, who once filed to run for office as a Democrat, all went to Republican voters and portrayed him as a real conservative.

"Roly Arrojo: Is he too conservative?" the mailers asked. Another pointed out that he wanted to "dramatically" reduce federal spending or is a "complete outsider," all in an effort to get conservatives to waste their vote on Arrojo and not support Rivera.

But Rivera won with 52.1 percent of the vote to Garcia’s 42.6 percent. Arrojo gained just 3 percent of the vote, which could equate to about $6.96 spent on his behalf for every vote he gained. Arrojo has refused to comment for years.

Arrojo3In a Garcia-Rivera rematch last year, the congressional lines were redrawn into the new Miami-Key West District 26 and Garcia won by more than 10 percentage points.

Rivera lost amid an investigation linking him to a political newcomer who received more than $81,486 in illegal help and contributions to fund his mailers in the Democratic primary race against Garcia.

That candidate, Justin Lamar Sternad, pleaded guilty in the fraud and is now helping federal prosecutors.

Republicans and Sternad’s lawyer, Rick Yabor, complained that Arrojo might have perpetrated the same scheme two years before.

Unlike Sternad’s campaign, Arrojo reported no expenditures at all, had fewer mailers but was rapped by the Federal Elections Commission for failing to disclose his finances.

After The Miami Herald this year reported that Arrojo’s campaign used the same printing house as Garcia, the FBI checked it out.

The printing company referred the FBI to a Coral Springs consultant, Michael Kaplan, who said he told investigators and The Herald that Joe Garcia’s political advisor, Jeffrey Garcia, had him take care of the mailers.

Jeffrey Garcia, no relation to the congressman, is under a separate and unrelated state investigation concerning fraudulent absentee ballot requests made during the 2012 Democratic primary. When that investigation was announced, the congressman fired the long-time advisor and chief of staff.

Jeffrey Garcia, who will no longer comment, was a friend and former business partner of Arrojo.

Rep. Garcia said he had no idea about either scandal, is cooperating with state prosecutors and will do the same with the FBI.

For former Republican candidate Marili Cancio, who ran unsuccessfully against Rivera in the 2010 primary, the investigation is a longtime coming.

Cancio, in a written statement, criticized the DCCC mailers and the ones linked to Jeffrey Garcia as “unethical and clearly designed to capture conservative votes from the Republican nominee at the time.”

But, she said, the DCCC mailers probably weren’t illegal. But the one linked to the Garcia campaign probably was, she said.

“I have no doubt that Joe Garcia's campaign had knowledge of these shenanigans and I hope Joe Garcia takes responsibility,” she said.

Arrojo4

September 09, 2013

Rep. Joe Garcia's former staff chief/adviser under FBI investigation for ties to faux Tea Party candidate

@MarcACaputo

U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia’s former chief of staff and top advisor is under FBI investigation for his ties to a phony Tea Party candidate’s secretly funded mail campaign, the Miami Herald has learned.

Consultant Jeffrey Garcia, no relation to the Miami Democratic congressman, already faces a separate state criminal investigation for allegedly requesting absentee ballots of voters without their permission.

Rep. Garcia has denied participating in or knowing about either scandal. Jeffrey Garcia won’t comment.

In the newly opened federal investigation, a political consultant who worked for Garcia’s campaign told the Herald and the FBI that Jeffrey Garcia was behind then-Tea Party candidate Roly Arrojo’s mailers that attacked a rival of Garcia’s, Republican David Rivera, in the 2010 congressional election.

More here