Rivera said the money was a loan, so he technically wasn’t paid and therefore was telling the truth when he said he hadn’t earned anything from his work for the dog track.
The state attorney’s office uncovered the dog-track payment when it examined Rivera’s personal and campaign finances. FDLE wanted Rivera charged for a host of crimes. State prosecutors opted against it, due to the weakness of Florida’s anti-corruption statutes and because the statute of limitations had expired for some of the alleged crimes.
Despite all the legal scrapes, Rivera was favored by many insiders to win re-election.
But then the news about Sternad’s campaign began dogging Rivera.
Three campaign vendors who had helped Sternad had also worked for Rivera in the past. Two of them told The Herald/El Nuevo Herald and, later, the FBI that Rivera was behind Sternad’s efforts. They said Alliegro handled most of the transactions, many of them in cash stuffed in envelopes.
Under federal campaign finance laws, all contributions and expenditures are supposed to be reported. Almost none of these transactions were.
Federal campaign finance laws limited contributions in 2012 congressional races to $2,500 per donor.
But Sternad received far more than that.
Just before paying the $10,440 state fee to qualify for the ballot in early June, Sternad’s campaign was given $11,000 in cash from an unnamed source in three installments.
A night-time hotel worker who earns less than $30,000 annually, he falsely reported that money as his own, a loan to his campaign, the federal charging document, called an “information,” says.
Sternad continued to receive cash and checks that paid his campaign expenses, but which were not fully reported.
More than two months later, with the FBI on his trail, Sternad didn’t make that mistake again. He filed blank federal finance reports and said in a letter that he was invoking his Fifth Amendment rights against self incrimination.
Sternad could face five years in prison for the charges against him. His lawyer, Enrique “Rick” Yabor declined to comment.
A top criminal defense attorney, Bruce Zimet, said the fact that Sternad was charged by an information instead of an indictment is a sign he’s probably cooperating with prosecutors.
Zimet said the size of the 10-page information, which are often shorter, also indicates that prosecutors might want to send a message to other targets of the alleged conspiracy.
“There’s no reason to have lots of details in the information unless it’s meant to communicate something,” Zimet said.