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First convict in David Rivera campaign-finance case asks for lighter sentence

@MarcACaputo

Federal prosecutors and the lawyer for the first conspirator convicted in a campaign-finance scheme linked to ex-congressman David Rivera will ask a judge Friday to reduce the man's sentence.

Justin Lamar Sternad was sentenced last year to seven months in prison for taking more than $81,000 in illegal campaign contributions, which Rivera allegedly steered to him in a failed 2012 congressional bid.

Sternad hasn’t yet served his sentence. And his lawyer, Enrique “Rick” Yabor, says the former hotel-desk worker and father of five should get more credit for helping investigators, who used his information to nab a friend of Rivera’s in the conspiracy.

“We’ll be asking for house arrest for my client,” Yabor said, adding that he didn’t know what sentence reduction Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Mulvihill will recommend.

“You’ll have to ask him,” Yabor said, “but I expect he’ll still ask for jail time.”

Mulvihill won’t comment on any aspect of the case, citing Justice Department policy. Last week and last month, however, a judge forced Mulvihill in open court to name Rivera as an unindicted co-conspirator.

The extraordinary scenario played out just before the scheduled trial of Rivera confidante Ana Alliegro, who pleaded guilty in August. She was sentenced to a split sentence of six months time-served in jail and six more months house arrest. She is cooperating with prosecutors as well.

“In early April 2012, the defendant, Ana Alliegro, met at the Catch of the Day Restaurant with Congressman David Rivera and another individual,” Mulvihill said Aug. 19 in court.

“David Rivera directed Ana Alliegro to meet with Justin Lamar Sternad to assist,” Mulvihill said. “She called him. She met with him. She told him that she had connections to provide the financing for his campaign. Since, as I told you, he was an extremely poor man, he agreed to accept it, took it as a lifesaver.”

Mulvihill said the case was serious because Sternad, Alliegro and Rivera were undermining citizens’ faith in elections. Sternad used the illegal money, which he received from Alliegro allegedly at Rivera’s direction, to campaign against a Rivera rival, Joe Garcia, in the 2012 Democratic primary for District 26.

Garcia beat Sternad and then Rivera, who tried to mount a comeback this year but was badly beaten amid news of the scandal, which was first reported by the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald.

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