March 05, 2015

David Rivera should pay $58K in ethics penalties, judge recommends


IMG_IMG_rivera.JPG_2_1_A_8_1_OJ308QU5_L74973366 (1)Former U.S. Rep. David Rivera should be forced to pay $57,821.96 for breaking Florida ethics rules when he was a state legislator, an administrative law judge in Tallahassee recommended Thursday.

Judge David Watkins suggested Rivera, a Miami Republican who has been out of state office since 2010, pay a $16,500 fine plus $41,321.96 in restitution.

In 2012, the judge found that Rivera, who for two years served as the powerful budget chief in the Florida House of Representatives, failed to properly disclose his income and double-billed taxpayers by accepting state reimbursement for travel previously paid for by his campaign account.

The recommendation will go to the Florida Commission on Ethics, which will issue a final order. Any penalty would ultimately have to be imposed by House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican served with Rivera from 2008-10.

Rivera said Friday he intends to contest the judge’s recommendation.

“This is a long way from over and I have not yet begun to fight!” he wrote in an email to the Miami Herald.

Rivera, who was elected to Congress in 2010 but lost in 2012, has since proclaimed his intention to run for the Florida House again next year.

Rivera denied wrongdoing when he was initially charged with 11 ethics violations in October 2012. He successfully disputed four of the charges, bringing the number down to seven. His last appeal wound up at the ethics commission in September. Rivera sought to delay the case, but exasperated commissioners said they had had enough. They rejected his request and asked Judge Watkins to determine penalties.

More here.

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

This post has been updated.

February 03, 2015

Alliegro testifies against ex-Rep. David Rivera and wonders: Where's the indictment?


David Rivera’s former girlfriend repeatedly told a federal grand jury that the ex-congressman was the mastermind behind a complicated campaign finance scheme that landed her and another in prison.

Nearly two dozen times, Ana Alliegro says, she testified that Rivera supplied more than $81,000 used in the crime, that he plotted the cover-up and he then helped her twice escape to a getaway in Nicaragua.

Yet she’s angry Rivera has yet to be indicted, despite her hour-long Dec. 18 testimony and a mountain of evidence: corroborating witnesses, a trove of emails, a handwritten note from Rivera and even fingerprints. Also, a federal judge last year demanded Rivera be named in open court.

“Are politicians above the law? I don’t get it,” Alliegro told the Miami Herald in an interview. Rivera, who has long maintained his innocence, couldn’t be reached.
Alliegro said she suspects that Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas J. Mulvihill’s phlegmatic pace has delayed the prosecution of the crime, which was first uncovered by the Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

“I think Mulvihill is the reason he hasn’t been charged,” Alliegro said.

Alliegro pointed to a memo, which she said Rivera authored, that claimed Mulvihill approached the then-Republican congressman in June 2011 when the prosecutor said he was “bitter and disappointed” because, years earlier, he had not been appointed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

Rivera allegedly claimed that go-betweens of Mulvihill later wanted Rivera to advocate on his behalf with the congressman’s longtime friend, GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, if Republican Mitt Romney became president the following year.

Asked by email about the issue and the state of the case against Rivera, Mulvihill didn’t respond. But a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office did. “While we have no comment on this investigation, the specific allegations about AUSA Mulvihill referenced in your e-mail are completely false,” Marlene Fernandez-Karavetsos wrote.

More here

December 04, 2014

David Rivera still hasn't reported how he paid for campaign robocalls


Another financial reporting deadline has come and gone for this year's political candidates -- which means another deadline has come and gone in which David Rivera has yet to report how much he paid for automated telephone calls to voters.

The robocalls, featuring Rivera himself speaking in Spanish, were the only politicking Rivera did this summer after placing his short-lived campaign on hold. The Miami Republican briefly ran for his old congressional seat.

At the time, Rivera hadn't reported raising any money. That hasn't changed since. His Dec. 1 report continues to list $0 contributions.

November 14, 2014

Tale of the tail: David Rivera calls cops on mysterious follower


Former U.S. Rep. David Rivera is known in Florida political circles to be a bit... paranoid.

But, as the saying goes, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.

When Rivera left his home in a Miami suburb on Friday and thought somebody was following him, he turned out to be right. He had a shadow.

Here's what happened, according to accounts pieced together by the Miami Herald.

As he pulled out of his driveway, Rivera spotted a middle-aged man in a white SUV inside his Doral gated community. The SUV followed him out the gate. It was still behind him when Rivera drove to a nearby SunTrust Bank branch.

Alarmed, Rivera lined up someone to witness the tail. The witness was tasked with following the follower.

Rivera drove to a nearby Starbucks. So did the SUV. So did the witness.

Convinced the man in the SUV was after him, Rivera dialed 911 on his way back home. This time, the SUV didn't go into the gated community. But it did park by a side entrance.

Continue reading "Tale of the tail: David Rivera calls cops on mysterious follower" »

November 04, 2014

David Rivera hits Election Day polls in Miami -- even though he's not on the ballot

@PatriciaMazzei  IMG_3433 (1)

Never mind that he lost his Miami congressional seat two years ago, and placed fourth out of five in this year's Republican primary to try to get it back.

Ex-Rep. David Rivera hit the polls anyway on Election Day in Southwest Miami-Dade County -- clad in a white polo shirt with "Congressman David Rivera" and the U.S. House of Representatives logo embroidered over his heart.

Misleading? Perhaps. He also wore it when he campaigned in the GOP primary for the 26th congressional district in August.

"What are you running for?" an elderly Cuban-American man asked Rivera in Spanish before walking into the precinct. "God bless you."

Rivera isn't running for anything, but he was collecting petition signatures to qualify for the ballot -- in 2016, as a Florida House of Representatives candidate. He would run in the district currently represented by state Rep. Frank Artiles, a Republican who won't be term-limited in two years and whom Rivera backs, suggesting the former congressman expects Artiles to run for something else, perhaps Miami-Dade County Commission.

IMG_3431 (1)In addition to the petitions, Rivera handed out yellow slate cards titled "Republican Voter Alert!" The next line read, "As a Life-Long Republican, Congressman David Rivera Recommends." For his former seat, he endorsed Republican Carlos Curbelo, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia.

The card said "Paid for by David Rivera" at the bottom, which is not exactly how disclaimers on political advertisements are supposed to read. It should identify the piece as an independent expenditure. And if Rivera spent more than $5,000 on them -- doubtful -- then he'd have to report the spending. Then again, he never did report how he paid for robocalls during the primary campaign.

October 13, 2014

Ana Alliegro: 'calculating, manipulative, treacherous' David Rivera 'will also fall'


If anyone thought former Congressman David Rivera's (now-former?) gal pal Ana Alliegro wouldn't testify against him, check out what she told Diario las Americas:

"David Rivera will also fall,” says Alliegro sweetly, in a reflective tone. “His time is near; I hope that the law will do with him what it did with me.” She says that she “lived my best days while in Granada, Nicaragua,” where she went “to flee from the press, not from justice.”.....

“Obviously, I allowed a man to defraud me — and yes, I was in love with David. He claimed he felt the same about me. But he knows what he’s doing, he’s calculating, manipulative, treacherous. He answered no calls from me, didn’t come out in my defense, neither him nor any other member of the Republican Party.”....

Every day in detention, Ana Sol Alliegro hoped for David Rivera to come to her aid. That was her hope.

“I thought that, at any given moment, he would have some plan, something to do for me,” but that wasn’t so. “He deceived me, I was disillusioned and hurt,” she said, adding that Rivera uses and manipulates women, “as has been demonstrated.”....

More here

October 02, 2014

How David Rivera paid for campaign robocalls remains a mystery


David Rivera lost the Republican primary for Florida's 26th congressional district, unceremoniously ending his short-lived bid for his old seat. 

But as with most Rivera political campaigns, the story didn't end there.

His latest campaign-finance report, filed Thursday, fails to explain how Rivera paid for at least two rounds of Spanish-language robocalls to voters. The calls were the only noticeable campaigning Rivera engaged in before the Aug. 26 primary.

In fact, the only expense Rivera disclosed for the entire 2014 campaign was his candidate filing fee of $10,440. He didn't raise any money, either. 

Robocalls are relatively cheap campaign tools, but any money doled out by Rivera would still have to be reported, even if only as a lump-sum total and not an itemized expense.

The embattled Rivera still owes $128,573 from his 2012 campaign.

September 26, 2014

NRCC ad: Joe Garcia -- "another corruption scandal"


Political ads come with a who-paid disclaimer. But they also should bear a viewer-beware warning.

So there are some caveats with the National Republican Campaign Committee's latest ad bashing Democratic Congressman Joe Garcia.

Much of the ad is true: Garcia's former campaign and congressional staffers are under investigation in both a state absentee-ballot-request fraud scandal and a campaign-finance crime. "Joe Garcia has only delivered more corruption," the ad says, showing a label that says "another corruption scandal."

But so far, Garcia isn't under investigation. No direct evidence points to him. He's not ducking the press. And he has been cooperative with authorities. That's to say, Garcia is not like former Republican Rep. David Rivera, whom the NRCC never attacked and who has been under multiple investigations. And while Rivera was in the sights of numerous investigators, Garcia's current challenger -- Republican Carlos Curbelo -- gave Rivera money.

Still, Garcia has explaining to do. He has a criminal defense lawyer. When you talk clean elections and the people running your elections machinery are doing dirty and potentially dirty deals, it's never helpful.

Former Rep. David Rivera's 'co-conspirator' wants indictments in Rep. Joe Garcia's camp

From the Facebook page of Ana Sol Alliegro, admitted 'co-conspirator' of former U.S. Rep David Rivera, in regards to potential criminal activity in the former campaign of U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia:

Since my release, I have received many interview request to tell my story. I hope that for the time being this statement will put to rest some of these inquires. I have already admitted that some of our actions were wrong and illegal. I will continue to pay for them. But I fail to comprehend what appears to be selective enforcement of those laws.

It is clear to me and others that I was prosecuted for the same exact actions in which current Congressman Joe Garcia's campaign was engaged a whole two years prior; the illegal recruitment and financing of a straw candidate in a general election.

Continue reading "Former Rep. David Rivera's 'co-conspirator' wants indictments in Rep. Joe Garcia's camp" »

September 19, 2014

In 'dirty deal' linked to David Rivera, judge reduces convict's prison sentence


Justin Lamar Sternad wanted to go to Washington.

Instead, the former congressional candidate took the bus to Miami’s downtown federal courthouse on Friday to get his prison sentence reduced in a campaign-finance scheme tied to former U.S. Rep. David Rivera.

Still dressed in his working clothes after pulling an all-nighter graveyard shift at a local hotel, Sternad said he was thankful that a judge cut his prison sentence from seven months to 30 days with three month’s house arrest. He earned the reduction because of his remorse and substantial cooperation that helped prosecutors nab Rivera’s confidante, Ana Alliegro.

Rivera is the feds next target for indictment.

"I hope it's sooner than later," Sternad, a 37-year-old father of five, told a Miami Herald reporter when he was asked if he’d like to see the former congressman charged.

"I'm going to cooperate fully with the Department of Justice," Sternad said. Alliegro is also cooperating.

Rivera has denied wrongdoing ever since The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald began exposing the crime in the 2012 Democratic primary campaign for Congressional District 26.

Sternad, a no-name with no money, had filed to run for the office but quickly realized he needed cash. That’s when Alliegro, allegedly directed by Rivera, decided to approach him and offer him money – at least $81,000.

Sternad used the money to pay for various expenses, mailers and robo-calls to campaign against Rivera’s rival, Joe Garcia. Garcia went on to beat Sternad and others in the primary and then bested the Republican Rivera in the general election.

Rivera ran for reelection this year, but was soundly defeated in a GOP primary as the investigation grew closer to him.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Mulvihill credited Sternad for his help and moved the court to reduce his sentence. But, Mulvihill said, he still needed some jail time.

“It’s not as if he’s an innocent dupe,” said Mulvihill, who was compelled last week and in August by a judge to name Rivera as the mastermind of the conspiracy. 

Sternad’s lawyer, Enrique “Rick” Yabor, argued that his client should just receive house arrest. But he acknowledged Sternad did wrong, but at a certain point, he was in over his head.

“He admits his reaction was to stick his head in the sand,” Yabor said about Sternad’s mindset when it was clear he was breaking campaign-finance laws.

U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga was clearly sympathetic to Sternad. But she agreed with the prosecutor – that Sternad needed to do some jail time for the “dirty deal.”

Altonaga said he should receive a lighter sentence than Alliegro, who made the crime possible and had twice fled the United States to Nicaragua rather than cooperate with the feds. Alliegro last week was sentenced to six month's time served in jail and six more months of house arrest.

At Yabor’s request, she decided to delay the imposition of the sentence until Nov. 3.

That’s the day before Election Day, when Sternad had hoped two years ago that he’d be running for reelection and not slouching toward the federal Bureau of Prisons to be incarcerated.