November 09, 2017

Rivera hires attorney in FEC case


Former U.S. Rep. David Rivera has hired an attorney to defend him in a civil lawsuit brought by the Federal Election Commission.

Court records show Rivera retained Miami attorney Roy Kahn on Thursday. The FEC wants Rivera to pay $486,000 in penalties for failing to report at least $69,000 in secret cash he funneled to a ringer candidate in 2012.

Kahn said the defense will soon respond to the feds' July filing

"Not a complicated case," he said. "Pretty simple."

Rivera eluded U.S. marshals trying to serve him with the lawsuit for three months. The marshals finally caught up with the Miami Republican at Orlando International Airport last month.

Kahn is best known for his criminal defense work, but he insisted he's also been involved in civil litigation for the past 15 years.

October 27, 2017

U.S. marshals served David Rivera last week at Orlando airport


U.S. marshals served former Congressman David Rivera a week ago at the Orlando airport, finally giving the Miami Republican formal notification that the Federal Election Commission has sued him.

Rivera, who had evaded marshals since July, showed up to the Florida Legislature on Tuesday and feigned ignorance of the case against him. But records show he had already been served when he told Politico Florida reporters he didn't know what lawsuit they were asking him about.

The court filing appeared to show that Rivera had been served Oct. 18. But that turned out to be a record that a new summons had been issued, not actually served. The summons wasn't delivered to Rivera until 4 p.m. on Oct. 20 at Orlando International Airport, according to a new filing posted Friday.

Rivera or his attorney, if he designates one, now has until Nov. 13 to respond to the lawsuit.


October 24, 2017

UPDATED U.S. marshals, search no further: Rivera is in Tallahassee


Former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, who for months has been avoiding U.S. marshals trying to serve him with lawsuit papers in Miami, showed up Tuesday in Tallahassee for designation ceremony of Republican Bill Galvano of Bradenton the next state Senate president.

Rivera, a Republican, refused to answer questions from Politico Florida about the civil lawsuit filed against him in July by the Federal Election Commission, which wants $486,000 in penalties for unreported campaign cash Rivera funneled to a ringer 2010 Democratic candidate for Congress.

The FEC sued Rivera in July, Since then, U.S. marshals have attempted to serve him in person on four occasions in Miami but have been unable to find him, either at his Doral residence or at two other locations. That forced FEC attorneys to request and obtain an extension. They now have until Dec. 11 to serve him.

Rivera, a former state representative, chatted with legislators Tuesday inside the Senate chambers, including Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O'Lakes, who has chosen not to impose a nearly $58,000 Florida Commission on Ethics fine against Rivera over double-billed travel expenses from when Rivera was in state office.

Rivera is running for the Florida House again in 2018.

Politico Florida also has video of chasing down Rivera to try to get him to respond to questions. Rivera indicated in the video he would be in Tallahassee for a couple of days:

UPDATE: Turns out the feds served Rivera with a legal summons on Oct. 18, Politico reported Wednesday, just five days after U.S. District Judge Robert Scola extended the deadline. So Tuesday in Tallahassee, Rivera was lying to reporters and feigning ignorance of a lawsuit he actually knew about.

UPDATE #2: The Oct. 18 filing showed a new court summons had been issued -- but not served -- to Rivera. He wasn't served until Oct. 20.

Photo credit: Mary Ellen Klas, Miami Herald

October 13, 2017

David Rivera has evaded U.S. marshals since July

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Former U.S. Rep. David Rivera avoided criminal charges in an unlawful campaign-finance scheme he was suspected of masterminding. Now he’s evading the feds again — this time, U.S. marshals trying to serve him with a civil lawsuit.

Since July, marshals have attempted to formally notify Rivera in person, by phone, by overnight mail and via email that the Federal Election Commission sued him, seeking $486,000 in penalties for at least $69,000 in unreported campaign cash Rivera funneled to a ringer candidate in 2012

Each time, Rivera, a 2018 candidate for the Florida House of Representatives, has eluded them.

His unknown whereabouts — and a delay of service attempts due to Hurricane Irma — prompted FEC attorney Greg J. Mueller to ask U.S. District Judge Robert Scola on Thursday for 60 more days to serve Rivera. Scola granted the request Friday, giving the feds until Dec. 11 to serve the lawsuit.

“The Commission’s diligent efforts to serve Rivera have been thwarted so far by Rivera’s apparent evasion of service,” Mueller wrote in his request to Scola. “Rivera is almost certainly aware of this lawsuit.” 

Four times, marshals tried to serve Rivera in person. On the first occasion, three days after the FEC sued on July 17, a deputy marshal visited Rivera’s townhouse, inside a Doral gated community.

“The Deputy Marshal then encountered an individual in the driveway at that address who ‘refused to answer questions’ regarding Rivera,” Mueller wrote.

More here.

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, el Nuevo Herald

August 29, 2017

Prosecutors run out of time to charge former U.S. Rep. David Rivera

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Federal prosecutors had half a decade to bring criminal charges against former U.S. Rep. David Rivera in an illegal campaign-finance scheme that landed two of his co-conspirators in jail.

They didn’t. And now, they will no longer be able to do so.

Tuesday marked the five-year anniversary of the last recorded act in the conspiracy involving at least $69,000 in secret money Rivera, a Republican who was then a member of Congress, was suspected to have funneled into the campaign of Justin Lamar Sternad, a ringer candidate in the 2012 Democratic primary. As of Wednesday, the statute of limitations to indict Rivera on any of the same charges as his co-conspirators will have expired.

Rivera will have escaped criminal prosecution, though the feds are still going after him in civil court.

He is now a 2018 candidate for the Florida House of Representatives, the chamber where he began his political career in 2002. 

“I can’t really fathom how a person that has been named as a co-conspirator is out there, while I had to serve a sentence, and so did Mr. Sternad,” Ana Alliegro, the Republican consultant Rivera used as a go-between to send Sternad money, told the Miami Herald in an interview Tuesday. “What upsets me is that politicians don’t go to jail in this state. I don’t get it. They don’t get reprimanded.”

More here.

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, El Nuevo Herald staff

July 17, 2017

FEC sues Rivera, wants $486K in fines over secret 2012 campaign cash

Rivera FEC (2)
@PatriciaMazzei @NewsbySmiley

Former U.S. Rep. David Rivera funneled at least $69,000 in secret campaign cash to a ringer candidate in the 2012 congressional election, says the Federal Election Commission — which wants the Republican ex-congressman to pay $486,000 in civil penalties.

The FEC sued Rivera in Miami federal court Friday, seeking the penalties over the unreported money Rivera and Ana Alliegro, a GOP political consultant, used five years ago to prop up straw candidate Justin Lamar Sternad against Joe Garcia in the Democratic primary. Garcia ultimately defeated Rivera in the 2012 general election.

“Rivera’s scheme involved concealing in-kind contributions by paying vendors mostly in cash to produce and distribute materials for Sternad’s campaign,” FEC attorney Sana Chaudhry wrote in the civil complaint against Rivera.

“Sternad’s disclosure reports failed to disclose the true source of the contributions, instead falsely stating that the contributions were loans from Sternad’s personal funds. Rivera took several measures to conceal his involvement and the source of the contributions.”

Sternad and Alliegro, whom Rivera used as his go-between, wound up with federal criminal convictions in the notorious illegal campaign-finance case. Rivera, however, has managed to avoid all criminal charges. The statute of limitations on criminal charges expires next month. 

The FEC’s civil case, in the works since April 2013 but delayed until now, is the latest indication that Miami federal prosecutors, led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Mulvihill, are unwilling to criminally charge Rivera — even though U.S. District Judge Robert Scola took the extraordinary step of forcing Mulvihill to name Rivera as the target of his investigation back in 2014.

The FEC lawsuit was first reported by Politico Florida. The illicit campaign-finance scheme was revealed in 2012 by the Miami Herald.

Rivera, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing — or that he’s been investigated at all — could not be reached for comment Monday. His cellphone recording says he’s out of the country.

Rivera is now a 2018 candidate for Florida House District 105. Last year, he narrowly lost another state House bid.

More here.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, el Nuevo Herald

March 30, 2017

David Rivera files to run for office, again


David Rivera wants to run for the Florida House of Representatives again, after having lost a narrow race in a recount last year.

Rivera, a former state legislator and congressman turned perennial candidate, submitted candidacy paperwork to the Florida Division of Elections on Wednesday. The Republican intends to run for House District 105, currently represented by term-limited Rep. Carlos Trujillo -- who, as it happens, holds the position that once made Rivera so powerful in Tallahassee: budget chief.

Trujillo is still holding out hope he might be named as an ambassador to Panama or Argentina under President Donald Trump -- something he has said would force him to vacate his two-year term after one year.

Another Republican, Ana Maria Rodriguez, has also filed to seek the seat.

A recount last November determined that Rivera had lost the House District 118 seat to a first-time candidate, Democrat Robert Asencio.

Rivera told the Miami Herald in a text message Thursday that he's running again "to continue serving my community." He later telephoned to add, "And I was asked to run by many constituents."

What he's been doing professionally since being ousted from Congress in 2012 is unclear. He says he's a business development consultant.

By the time the 2018 election rolls around, Rivera may no longer be dogged by a federal criminal investigation into the 2012 congressional election. He is suspected of orchestrating an illegal campaign finance scheme against one of his rivals in the Democratic primary. The statute of limitations for prosecutors to charge Rivera will expire later this year; the U.S. attorney's office in Miami has shown no signs of an upcoming indictment.

Still pending against Rivera is a state ethics fine of nearly $58,000 that has yet to be imposed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Rivera had preemptively challenged the legality of the penalty to the Florida Supreme Court, but the justices rejected his appeal in December, because Corcoran hadn't actually fined Rivera.

The Florida Commission on Ethics recommended the fine after finding that Rivera, as a state legislator, failed to properly disclose his income and double-billed taxpayers when improperly seeking a travel reimbursement paid for by his campaign account. Rivera has denied any impropriety.

The ethics investigation began in 2010, after the Miami Herald found problems in Rivera's financial disclosure reports. The review was put on hold until after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Miami-Dade state attorney's office probed for criminal wrongdoing in Rivera's finances. Prosecutors found Rivera appeared to live off his campaign account but never charged him citing an ambiguous law.

Rivera's latest candidacy filing will allow him to open a new campaign account. As treasurer, Rivera listed himself.

--with Mary Ellen Klas

This post has been updated.

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, el Nuevo Herald

December 06, 2016

Florida Supreme Court denies Rivera ethics appeal

From the News Service of Florida:

The Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to take up an appeal by former state lawmaker David Rivera in a long-running ethics case.

As is common, justices did not give reasons for turning down Rivera's appeal of a July ruling by the 1st District Court of Appeal. Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince and James E.C. Perry agreed to reject the case, while Justice R. Fred Lewis wanted to hear oral arguments. Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston did not take part, according to an order posted online.

An attorney for Rivera in September urged the Supreme Court to take up the constitutionality of a law that allows the House speaker to impose fines against Rivera in the ethics case, which includes allegations that Rivera was improperly reimbursed by the state for travel expenses that had been covered by campaign accounts.

The state Commission on Ethics and an administrative law judge ruled against Rivera, who has disputed the characterization of his actions but could face nearly $58,000 in fines.

The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled in July that it was too early for Rivera to challenge the constitutionality of the law allowing him to be fined by the House speaker.

While the ethics commission recommended a penalty, the House speaker is charged by the law with the final decision. Rivera’s attorney asked the Supreme Court to consider the “ripeness” issue, but Attorney General Pam Bondi's office asked justices to turn down the appeal.

Rivera, a Miami Republican who served as House budget chairman, left the Legislature in 2010 and served a single term in Congress. He lost a bid to return to the state House last month.

November 22, 2016

Robert Asencio is sworn in to the Florida House despite attempt by David Rivera to challenge him

Robert Asencioby @MaryEllenKlas

After a ruling by the Secretary of State that Democrat Robert Asencio's 53-vote victory over former state Rep. David Rivera was legitimate, the Florida House swore in the Democrat and rejected Rivera's seating challenge. 

The House unanimously rejected the formal challenge for House District 118 Tuesday, during the House's post-election organizational session, after the Florida Canvassing Board, headed by Secretary of State Ken Detzner certified the vote after a recount.

After 10 hours of counting ballots, Miami-Dade County elections department last week declared that Asencio finished with 31,412 votes and Rivera 31,359 — a margin 15 votes closer than when the recount began.

"There is no assertion and no evidence submitted that the Miami-Dade canvassing board...In other words, there was no allegation of any irregularity,'' said Rep. Larry Metz, R-Umatilla, who moved to dismiss the seating challenge. The motion was unanimously approved. 

Rivera’s lawyers asked elections officials to impound about 300 disputed ballots — mostly absentee ballots on which the voter’s signature was either missing or ruled not to match signatures in elections department records -- and asked the Florida House leadership to halt Asencio's swearing in until the ballots were reviewed.

Rivera said the he had received affidavits from 59 of those voters saying they voted by mail and cast their ballots for him and should be counted. But the recruitment and review of selected affidavits would have been unprecedented in a race that did not involve fraud. 

The unanimous vote of the House seated everyone who was sworn in and deemed them all qualified. 

 "Seeing that the House of Representatives is the sole judge of the qualifications, elections and returns of its members, by a vote of the House, you are now officially members of the House of Representatives. Congratulations," said outgoing House Speaker Steve Crisafulli.  

Photo: Robert Asencio

October 24, 2016

David Rivera's latest television ad: Blame it all on Joe Garcia

Garcia Rivera adIn his latest ad attempting to discredit his Democratic opponent, David Rivera is now pinning the blame on his longtime foe, former  Democratic Congressman Joe Garcia, accusing him of "obsessive attacks against David Rivera." The ad inexplicably also offers up a subliminal message, showing a logo for Granma, the Cuban government paper.

Garcia defeated Rivera, who was hoping to be re-elected to Congress in 2012. Garcia then lost the seat to Carlos Curbelo, a Republican, in 2014. Curbelo and Garcia are now in a re-match.  

Rivera's ad is being run on Spanish language television and features his discredited claim against Robert Asencio, his Democratic opponent in the House District 118 race. Asencio, an army veteran and 26-year member of the Miami Dade Schools police department, is 'a criminal,'' the ad claims, referring to unsubstantiated and dropped complaint from the parent of a child who was disciplined on a school bus in 2003.

The school district has said Asencio did nothing wrong, and the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police has withdrawn its endorsement of Rivera for "running a false and defamatory campaign against career public servant and distinguished police officer Robert Asencio." 

Here's the script from the misleading Rivera ad:

"Joe Garcia's allies continue their obsessive attacks against David Rivera. Now their pal Robert Asencio wants to imitate Garcia with his lies and false attacks against David Rivera. Maybe he does it because Asencio has a police record for physically abusing a boy and is now under federal investigation of other crimes.
"Go to the website "Asencio is a" and tell Robert Asencio to explain his crimes against children. Say no to Robert Asencio."  Download IMG_2284