When Justin Lamar Sternad met Ana Sol Alliegro at a Miller’s Miami Falls Ale House, he didn’t know the political consultant would help lead his campaign into the FBI’s crosshairs or that she had prior legal run-ins — including the time she shot at her ex-husband while naked.
Alliegro is a key figure in a federal investigation of Sternad’s campaign finances that focuses on the funneling of tens of thousands in cash tied to U.S. Rep. David Rivera.
Authorities believe Rivera and Alliegro, both Republicans, helped the Democratic Sternad undermine a political rival in his recent congressional primary race.
“Politics is rough and I play like it,” Alliegro, 42, once tweeted on Twitter.
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Now she’s missing or has been in hiding for the past two weeks, according to her family and lawyer, who said they’re “worried” about her.
A self-described “Republican bad girl,” Alliegro doesn’t appear to be cooperating with authorities investigating Sternad’s campaign. The political newcomer and part-time hotel worker lost the Aug. 14 Democratic primary race to Rivera rival Joe Garcia, who faces Rivera in the Nov. 6 general election for the Kendall-to-Key West seat.
Alliegro initially planned to cooperate with the FBI and make a statement on Thursday, Sept. 6. But she was a no-show.
The day before, she met with Rivera, who faces a separate criminal investigation into his personal and political finances.
The investigation into Sternad’s campaign concerns laws prohibiting money laundering, intentionally filing false campaign reports and conspiracy. No charges have been filed against Sternad, Alliegro or Rivera.
And it’s not the first time Alliegro has faced legal problems.
Two weeks ago, right after FBI agents raided her apartment and seized her computer, Miami Police arrested her on an old warrant for driving with a suspended license. She spent the weekend in jail, where she complained about the smell and view from her cell.
In 2009, she was arrested for shoplifting a pair of $29.99 sandals from Ross on Biscayne Boulevard. The charge was later dropped.
In January 2007, she was arrested in a dispute with her ex-husband, Moshe Cosicher, at his Tigertail Ave. home in Coconut Grove. They had been divorced for two years, but Alliegro wanted to get remarried, according to reports from Miami police and prosecutors.
“We are going to Vegas,” she told Cosicher, a report said. The report noted that when Cosicher refused, she grabbed a gun, which appeared to be a .45 that she kept at bed side.
She then sat naked at a desk with her leg up and compared the gun to a male sexual organ.
“If you think your [expletive] is powerful (showing the gun), this is mine,” Alliegro told Cosicher, who tried to ignore her by going to make coffee, a report said. Alliegro followed him and told him to sit on the couch.
She fired a round into the ceiling.
“You see. It’s loaded — this is business,” Alliegro allegedly said. He tried to leave.
“She shot at me when I approached the front door (she missed my head by inches),” Cosicher wrote in a police statement. He said he was able to defuse the situation when a contractor, who was performing work for him, happened to call and then stop by.
Cosicher, an architect who had first met Alliegro when she was a secretary years before, gave the statement later in the day, in part because he feared for his family after Alliegro allegedly said “she hated herself and her life and had nothing to lose by taking me and my entire family down with her.”
Cosicher, whom Alliegro accused of domestic violence, didn’t want to prosecute; Alliegro received probation.
“Sometimes women – they get upset,” Cosicher said two weeks ago during a brief interview. He has declined to comment further.
Alliegro wasn’t embarrassed about the shooting incident, however.
“She was quite proud of it,” said Enrique “Rick” Yabor, an attorney who hired Alliegro to run his unsuccessful judicial campaign.
Yabor said he was aware of her past. As a criminal and civil lawyer, Yabor said he believes in opportunities and wanted to give Alliegro a chance.
“She is very smart and she did warn me to stay away from the boleteras, but she could really get you in trouble if you listened to all her ideas,” said Yabor, who paid her $5,000 for advice. “It got so bad that I did not want to hear from her. I stopped answering the phone.”
Meantime, Alliegro was also working as a political consultant for Sternad, whom Yabor now represents in his criminal defense.
Alliegro, a single mother, has politics in her blood: Her grandfather was the president of the Senate in Cuba during the Fulgencio Batista era in the 1950’s.
Her father, Anselmo Alliegro, also made a failed bid for the Florida Legislature in 1998. He ran a business called Political Intelligence.
Mr. Alliegro advised his daughter not to speak to investigators after the shooting incident involving her ex-husband in 2007.
In 2000, at 30 years old, Alliegro ran unsuccessfully against then-Rep. Carlos Lacasa. At the time, Alliegro had been director of an elderly meals program. She was also the girlfriend of then-Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, a Lacasa nemesis. Around the same time, Alliegro also started her own consulting business: OnTarget Hispanic Marketing.
In 2001, Alliegro ran and lost against Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa. Though she lost by almost 30 percentage points, Alliegro filed a court challenge to the results, before quickly dropping the suit. Alliegro received about $75,000 in taxpayer funds to help finance that year’s campaign — and was later criticized by county auditors for failing to verify some $48,000 in campaign expenses.
In December 2009, Alliegro married former Miami mayor Joe Carollo. But the romance was short-lived: Carollo — a former police officer — quickly filed for divorce, saying that he feared Alliegro, court records show.
Alliegro “has become irrational, abusive and has harassed the husband at all hours,” Carollo’s lawyer wrote in court papers. “The wife has left several threatening messages and texts. The husband genuinely fears for his safety.”
Alliegro’s lawyer called Carollo’s allegations “scandalous and unfounded,” and accused the former mayor of perjury. They were married for 83 days.
The following year, Alliegro ran for office again but lost to current Rep. Michael Bileca. And she went back to consulting for other political candidates.
Amid her political campaigns, Alliegro also worked as a consultant for a host of other political candidates. Among her clients: former state representative Manuel Prieguez, former Miami mayor Maurice Ferre, and current Republican lawmaker Frank Artiles, records show. Last year, Alliegro received $5,000 in consulting fees working for a political committee with Republican ties called Protect Florida’s Economic Freedom.
Records show that Alliegro lives modestly. In 2009, she reported earning just $24,000 in her financial disclosure forms.
In 2007, her attempt to register a new company was denied when her $130 check to the state’s Division of Corporations bounced, records show. Last year, Alliegro earned $42,000 through her consulting company, records show.
Sternad has said that Alliegro contacted him out of the blue after he decided to run in the Congressional District 26 race, which had a crowded field of Democrats who wanted to topple Rivera, the incumbent Republican.
“I wanted to know who put him up,” Alliegro previously told The Herald.
She set up a meeting in spring 2012 at the Miller’s Miami Falls Ale House near Pinecrest. She admitted she was friends with Rivera and knew Garcia, but still offered to run Sternad’s campaign.
“I asked a million times. Why are you running for Congress? Why don’t you run for something local?” Alliegro said.
Sternad, according to Yabor, said he did not know Alliegro herself was a plant for Rivera, but he should have known.
“I’m friends with this guy so if by some miracle you win, I will support my buddy David,” Alliegro told Sternad.
As the primary race intensified between Garcia and another challenger, Gloria Romero Roses, Alliegro went to work on Sternad’s behalf. She delivered envelopes stuffed with crisp $100 bills to Rapid Mail & Computer Services, a Hialeah mailing house that sent out a dozen different types of mailers for Sternad, the owner said. Rivera had used Rapid Mail for his campaigns for years.
One of the mailers savaged Garcia, criticizing him over his divorce with a line of attack first espoused publicly by Rivera.
None of the work or the money for the mailers was initially disclosed by Sternad’s campaign. Federal law requires federal candidates to report all expenditures and contributions — including loans. Sternad later amended his reports to show he loaned himself about $64,000, which still might not have covered the consulting and printing costs for the mailers.
Sternad’s reports, handled by Alliegro, only initially listed about $11,000 in personal loans from Sternad. That appeared to be a big amount of money for Sternad, who only earned $30,000 the previous year and had a one-third interest in a family mutual fund worth a maximum of $100,000 that produced no income the previous year.
Two vendors say the Sternad campaign was run by Rivera, not Alliegro.
John Borrero, the owner of Rapid Mail, said that Alliegro walked in one time with Sternad and they were there for five minutes.
“I shook his hand and he said he was running for Congress,” Borrero told The Herald in August. “Ana came in to pay for the mailings, but she was totally disorganized, all over the place.”
Borrero said Alliegro often gave him the same answer when he asked for specifics on mailings: “Ask David.”
In all, Borrero said he was paid nearly $47,000 for his work. Nearly all of it was delivered in the cash-stuffed envelopes, some of which the FBI now has as evidence. Some of the money was delivered by Alliegro, and in one case Rivera directed a Rapid Mail secretary to go collect $7,800 tucked into a mail box, employees have told the FBI.
Only $9,000 was paid by check on Sternad’s behalf — and that money came from a company called Expert Printing, which printed the mailers. Expert Printing company officials won’t comment.
Another vendor, Hugh Cochran of Campaign Data, said Rivera used him to target the mailers for voters on behalf of Sternad.
Rivera has denied any knowledge of Sternad or his campaign.
Rivera is already facing federal scrutiny into his personal and campaign finances. The investigation stemmed from a secret $500,000 dog-track payment Rivera, then a state legislator, helped secure to lead a successful 2008 ballot initiative to legalize Las Vegas-style slot machines in Miami-Dade.
Rivera denied arranging the contract for his mother’s company, but she later contradicted that in a sworn statement.
For months, Rivera and Alliegro have been spotted around town. A fan of Social Media, her Twitter feed and Facebook account include photos of the two, and musings ranging from her devotion to Jesus Christ to quoting Sr. Winston Churchill: “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver ...”
One of her Tumblr posts, written seven months ago, had a lonely and prophetic quality to it:
“In 6 months I am leaving Miami in search of new adventure. Not sure where but I hope I find my own ‘Prince Charming’ before I croak. I think it would be lovely to keep good company. I am kind of sad today. Yet, that’s the way it goes. “A Malos Tiempos Buena Cara”. Hugs to all -I might take a break for a few days until I figure out the eternal question. Why me? And what was I thinking?”
Miami Herald staff writer David Ovalle contributed to this report.