June 23, 2014

The latest David Rivera mystery: What has he been doing for a living?


For the first time, David Rivera is running for Congress without holding a political office.

So what has the former U.S. House of Representatives member been doing for the past two years to pay the bills?

"Business development," the Miami Republican said Monday night.

What that means, exactly, will for now have to remain a mystery. Rivera repeatedly refused to elaborate on his profession, saying only that he will eventually file his required financial disclosures with the House. He would not name any clients or businesses that have paid him.

"That'll all come out in the financial disclosures," Rivera told a Miami Herald reporter. "They will speak for themselves." [See the transcript of the interview below.]

Earlier this month, a Florida administrative law found that, as a state representative, Rivera violated three ethics laws, included one every year between 2005 and 2009, when he failed to properly report his income. Rivera claimed in those financial disclosures that he worked as a contractor for the U.S. Agency of International Development.

USAID had no record of ever hiring him. After the Herald asked about the discrepancy in 2010, Rivera amended the financial disclosures to delete any USAID references.

Continue reading "The latest David Rivera mystery: What has he been doing for a living?" »

June 15, 2014

David Rivera's Maraña Mandala (or how he mistakenly admitted he wanted to break the law)


MaranaIf there's a single Miami slang term to describe David Rivera's schemes, it's "maraña."

Literally meaning "tangle" or "thicket," it's also Cuban Spanish for something like "a complicated web of schemes." I heard it first from a Republican friend of the former Florida lawmaker and current congressional candidate when he off-handedly mentioned "David's marañas.” 

The diagram embedded in this blog gives an actual picture of what one looked like. It was submitted as evidence by the state Attorney General's Office in the Florida Commission on Ethics case against Rivera, where a judge found him "non credible" and motivated sometimes by "corrupt intent" as he double-billed taxpayers and his campaign for legislative travel.

If the diagram is confusing, well, that's the point. 

It's a tangled thicket, a web of schemes. 

It's David's Maraña, a type of scandal-plagued Miami politican Mandala, like the Tibetan Wheel of Life that shows the rounds of ego-driven existence. Rivera's case, according to the commission's attorney, was about  "concealment, cover up, more concealment, and a large measure of greed thrown in." (Greed, incidentally, is symbolized as a cock in the center of the Wheel of Life).

David Rivera's Maraña Mandala reflects the flow of money into and out of his account when he tried to show he was paying back a "contingent liability loan" package of $132,000. The money came from a gambling company, now Magic City Casino, for Rivera's consulting work in a successful 2005 Miami-Dade gaming referendum. Rivera insisted the money be paid through a company called Millennium Marketing, owned by his now-deceased mother and her friend.

That's a tangled thicket, I know.

But again, that's the point. It looks and sounds like what it is. It's a maraña. It's a big reason the Internal Revenue Service, after investigating Rivera, is expected not to bring charges for failing to pay income taxes on the gaming money.

By classifying the casino money as a "contingent liability" from Millennium Marketing, Rivera said the payment wasn't income and therefore didn't have to be listed on public disclosures for state legislators. Few believe him, including the judge in his ethics case, but there's not enough "clear and convincing" evidence to prove otherwise.

In an effort to show the gaming money derived from "loans," Rivera started to pay it back. But while doing so, he borrowed money from his mother and her friend.

“So an officer of Millennium Marketing gave him the money to give back to Millennium Marketing,” Kelly Kimsey, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement senior crime intelligence analyst supervisor, testified in the case.

“He did not have the money to repay those loans at the time. He had spent the money on his living expenses,” she said, underscoring that she thought the arrangement was bogus.

Rivera denied all this in testimony. He said he borrowed the money in case he needed it during his successful 2010 congressional race. A judge found Rivera non credible” testimony and displaying “corrupt intent” while breaking state ethics laws


In giving his defense, Rivera basically admitted he was planning to break federal campaign-finance law that would generally outlaw using such a loan.

Even Rivera, it seems, can get stuck in his own marañas.

Here's the column, which didn't use the above graphic because, well, it was too confusing. Thus David Rivera's Maraña Mandala is a special bonus of being a Naked Politics reader.


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


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."


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.”

Continue reading "Ana Alliegro denied pre-trial release after prosecutor describes flight to Nicaragua" »

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


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.


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.


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