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In FBI probe, friend of Rep. David Rivera goes on the lam, has computer seized

A key witness in a federal investigation involving U.S. Rep. David Rivera failed to show up for an interview with prosecutors and the FBI one day after agents raided her Miami apartment and removed her computer, cell phone and other items.

Ana Alliegro’s whereabouts are a mystery — even to her lawyer.

“I have no idea where she is,” attorney Mauricio Padilla said Friday night. “I have not talked to Ana since Wednesday.”

Prosecutors believe Alliegro played a key role as a go-between for Rivera and a former Democratic congressional candidate who might have broken campaign finance laws in his failed bid against a rival of the Republican congressman in the Aug. 14 primary.

Alliegro had been scheduled to testify Thursday before a federal grand jury in Fort Lauderdale, but Padilla worked out a deal to speak directly to lead prosecutor Thomas J. Mulvihill and two FBI agents. Padilla and Alliegro met Wednesday to prepare for the meeting, but later that day Alliegro said Rivera met with her.

According to Alliegro’s family, Padilla was scheduled to pick her up at her apartment since she had no car and a suspended driver’s license. But she called her lawyer to say she would drive instead with her father.

That’s the last her attorney heard from her.

“Everything is fine,” said Alliegro’s mother, Agueda “Guedy” Alliegro. “I haven’t spoken to her, but she is OK.”

Guedy Alliegro said investigators had previously met with her daughter to serve her a federal subpoena and arrest her for a suspended driver’s license.

“Who gets arrested for that?” she asked. “Ana is innocent. She really doesn’t have anything to offer. She is being harassed for political interests.”

The case definitely involves politics.

At issue: $46,000 in once-secret payments — many made with cash-stuffed envelopes — that candidate Justin Lamar Sternad used for mailers in his unsuccessful primary race against Joe Garcia, who now faces Rivera in the general election.

Sternad’s campaign finance disclosure reports initially gave no indication that he had paid for the mailers. But he later amended the reports amid the FBI investigation.

Investigators have focused on Alliegro because she acted as Sternad’s campaign manager. She may have first-hand knowledge of the source of the funds and whether Rivera was involved in funding the campaign of the political unknown, a part-time night-time hotel worker.

More here

(post has been substantially updated)