Federal court case shows ex-Miami Rep. David Rivera is ‘co-conspirator’

08/01/2014 6:15 PM

08/02/2014 8:55 AM

Congressional candidate and former U.S. Rep. David Rivera has a newly disclosed identity in a federal campaign-finance corruption case: “Co-conspirator A.”

The name “Co-conspirator A” appeared in a 2012 search warrant for the home office of Rivera’s friend and political operative, Ana Alliegro, who’s awaiting trial for breaking federal campaign-finance laws.

Alliegro implicitly revealed Rivera’s identity by filing a recent but failed court motion that claimed the search warrant wasn’t lawfully approved by a judge because the FBI didn’t disclose that “Co-conspirator A” served in Congress. It was the first time she had tied Rivera to the alleged campaign-finance scandal.

At the time, Alliegro worked with only one member of Congress: Rivera, a Republican whose cellphone and American Airlines travel records were also seized in the criminal case, new court documents show.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry S. Seltzer said the job description of Alliegro’s co-conspirator didn’t matter anyway.

“Here, Alliegro cannot support her argument that the Affiant’s failure to identify Co-conspirator A as a Member of Congress was a material omission that bore on the magistrate judge’s decision to issue the warrant,” Seltzer wrote in a Tuesday ruling smacking down her multiple motions to have evidence against her suppressed.

Rivera, running for reelection in the Kendall-to-Key West seat he lost in 2012, has denied wrongdoing. He has claimed he wasn’t under investigation and recently has stopped commenting on the case.

During the 2012 Democratic primary, Alliegro helped a little-known candidate named Justin Lamar Sternad run in a crowded field. Prosecutors say Alliegro steered more than $81,000 in illegal contributions to Sternad, who used some of the money to attack Joe Garcia, a rival of Rivera’s, in mailings and automated, pre-recorded phone calls.

Garcia went on to win the Democratic primary and then beat Rivera in the general election.

Another court motion of Alliegro’s further shows Rivera’s fingerprints.

Alliegro suggested that, when her apartment was searched, she was a congressional aide and that the evidence seized couldn’t be used against her because she was essentially protected by the Speech or Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“Contrary to Alliegro’s suggestion that she is a ‘legislative aide,’ nothing in the record supports this,” the judge ruled, pointing out that the Debate Clause shields congressional members and some staffers conducting nonpolitical official work. “At most,” Seltzer said of Alliegro, “she is a political campaign operative.”

During Sternad’s campaign against Garcia, Seltzer’s ruling shows, “Co-conspirator A” asked campaign vendor Hugh Cochran, a former FBI agent and owner of the firm Campaign Data, to analyze Democratic voter addresses for some of Sternad’s mailers.

Before giving that information to the FBI, Cochran told the Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald that the person who requested the information was Rivera. Cochran proved it by showing an email he sent to Rivera concerning the data.

Rivera’s campaign then claimed it was a mistake by Cochran.

Cochran also said that ”Co-conspirator A” had him send the voter-address data to the firm Rapid Mail & Computer Services, where owner John Borrero first told the Herald/El Nuevo that Rivera was behind the Sternad-mail scheme.

Borrero told the FBI, Seltzer’s ruling says, that “Co-conspirator A” said “his name should not appear on any paperwork or billing associated with the mailings. Borrero, therefore, used White Out to conceal Co-conspirator A’s name on the invoices that had already been prepared.”

After the Herald articles indicating Rivera’s involvement in the August 2012 primary and Sternad’s suspicious campaign-finance reports, Sternad was indicted, pleaded guilty and said in open court last month that Alliegro and Rivera used him.

Alliegro, who cooperated with prosecutors at one point, skipped town and moved to Nicaragua. She returned, but then left again for Nicaragua even though she had given her passport to authorities who thought she would stay in the United States. During her second escape, she flew on American Airlines from Miami to Texas.

In a Wednesday court filing, prosecutors showed they subpoenaed a Houston-to-Miami American Airlines flight record linked to Rivera. Prosecutors also showed they subpoenaed Rivera’s American Airlines round-trip flights from Miami to Washington D.C. from June 5 to June 8, 2012.

During that period, another court record shows, a conspirator made two illegal deposits for Sternad’s campaign — totaling $10,500 — at a Washington bank.

Earlier this year, the U.S. government successfully persuaded Nicaraguan authorities to expel Alliegro, who was cuffed on her flight home to Miami where she told the FBI more details about “Co-conspirator A.”

Alliegro tried to have that evidence suppressed as well. But Judge Seltzer denied that motion, too.

Miami Herald staff writer Patricia Mazzei contributed to this report.

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