About that time, on Aug. 2, a Sternad co-conspirator paid Expert Printing $13,824.85 with a check drawn from a bank account that didn’t belong to Sternad’s campaign or his personal account, federal records show. It’s unclear if this money was from a Florida Action account.
The two network founders said that they never even saw the mailer Florida Action paid for.
One founder, Marcos Sendon, said he didn’t even know that Florida Action planned to produce a mailer. “This is obviously troubling,” said Sendon, an activist who also heads the group South Florida Conservatives.
The network’s registered agent, Eric C. Padron, said he knows little.
‘i didn’t see it’
“I don’t know what happened here,” Padron said. “I know a check was cut for the mailer. I know it was cashed. And none of this means the mailer wasn’t made, even though I didn’t see it … There are plenty of things that are investigated that turn out to be wrong.”
A third officer of the group, Republican consultant Eileen Pineiro, said she’d discuss the matter with the newspapers but couldn’t talk on the phone. She said she’d have to call back. She didn’t, and didn’t answer her phone or return an email.
Padron and Sendon say they have not been subpoenaed.
Padron this week reached out to another vendor involved in the case, John Borrero, owner of Rapid Mail & Computer Services in Hialeah, to see if he had any records of mailing out the mailers.
“I told him that Expert Printing never sent me any fliers for a Hispanic vote drive,” Borrero said. “All the mailings I sent were for the Sternad campaign.”
Borrero, like Sternad’s other two vendors, has done work for Rivera and other Republicans for years. He and another campaign vendor first told the newspapers and then the FBI that Rivera and Alliegro were behind Sternad’s campaign.
Padron said he believed Pinto, who briefly worked part-time in Rivera’s local congressional office before and after the election, cut a check to Expert Printing for the work and that she got a receipt. He said he didn’t have any of the paperwork, which was in Pinto’s possession.
For what it was supposed to do — gin up Hispanic support in a primary — the Florida Action Network expense was too small to make a difference in a county as big as Miami-Dade, home to nearly 1.3 million voters, of whom 693,000 are Hispanic. Also, turning out Hispanic support countywide was more of a general-election issue as both Republicans and Democrats battled for the coveted demographic.
Florida Action was started with the idea of holding a general-election Hispanic-conservative outreach gathering in Miami-Dade, said Padron and Sendon.
But they could never get enough money together. Sendon said he felt disappointed because he was in talks to get conservative Michael Reagan, son of the former president, to appear.
With about $27,000 left in the bank, Padron said, someone thought the committee should just spend the money on a mailer. About half was spent on consultants and mailing services and the rest on printing.
Padron, a one-time candidate for legislative office who actually ran against Fernandez, is an attorney who once represented consultant Esther Nuhfer, an ally of Rivera’s in yet another criminal case involving a secret payment from a dog track.
That case is ongoing, although Nuhfer is not under investigation nor is Padron or Sendon.
Padron said all of the political controversy has been more trouble than it’s worth.
“I just want this committee closed down,” Padron said. “If I got fooled, then lesson learned.”