In the three years since former U.S. Rep. David Rivera left Congress — unceremoniously, after a single term and under the cloud of a federal criminal investigation — he’s managed to significantly grow his personal wealth, even as what he does for a living has remained a mystery.
He’s worth more than $1.5 million, according to a financial disclosure form he filed this week to qualify as a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives. The last time he publicly declared his finances, in a 2012 congressional form that didn’t require a net-worth estimate, he listed just two assets — neither of which suggested he had the makings of a millionaire.
Most of the Miami Republican’s newfound wealth lies outside the U.S., in a pair of overseas bank accounts in Mexico and Taiwan each holding more than $300,000, his disclosure shows. He also owns three properties in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula worth $250,000, $100,000 and $50,000.
How Rivera acquired the money and the properties is unknown. He did not respond to questions a Miami Herald reporter emailed him Thursday afternoon.
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For years, Rivera has claimed to be a business development consultant, an amorphous profession with unidentified clients. The only income listed in his latest disclosure, for calendar year 2015, is $104,000. The money came from Xemma Holdings S.A. de C.V., a company in Mérida, Mexico, “in partnership” with Interamerican Consulting, Rivera’s corporate entity registered at his Doral home. Florida records show Rivera incorporated Interamerican on Jan. 24, 2013, three weeks after he left Congress.
Rivera has traveled abroad frequently since leaving Washington, according to what he’s told friends. He’s also been spotted often in Tallahassee, though he’s never registered to lobby for any client.
His mother, Daisy Magarino, died in November 2013. Since then, friends have speculated Rivera inherited money — or perhaps properties — from his mother, who was said to have spent some time in Mexico.
As a state lawmaker, Rivera funneled money from a secret contract to his mother, the Herald revealed in 2010. He had Magarino and her partner, Ileana Medina, set up a company, Millennium Marketing, that received payments for Rivera’s undisclosed, $1 million consulting deal with Flagler Dog Track (now Magic City Casino). The arrangement prompted a federal tax investigation.
Rivera never disclosed the money until after he left state office, when he admitted to receiving $132,000 in “loans” from Millennium.
Separately, state prosecutors investigated Rivera’s financial disclosure forms and campaign finances after the Herald found that he had masqueraded as a contractor for the U.S. State Department for seven years.
From 2003-09, then-state Rep. Rivera claimed he performed “international development consulting” for the U.S. Agency of International Development through Interamerican Government Relations, a company registered in Puerto Rico. USAID never hired Rivera.
Rivera amended his financial disclosure forms to remove any reference to USAID. He never answered in detail the nagging question of how he made a living outside of his part-time job as a state lawmaker. Miami-Dade prosecutors determined Rivera lived off his campaign contributions, though they never charged him with a crime, citing an ambiguous statute.
The Florida Commission on Ethics, however, fined Rivera $57,800 — a penalty he has appealed.
A second federal investigation into Rivera began after the Herald linked him in 2012 to a ringer Democratic candidate propped up by more than $81,000 funneled by Rivera’s ex-girlfriend. The candidate, Justin Lamar Sternad, and the ex-girlfriend, Ana Alliegro, both served time in prison over the illegal-campaign finance scheme. Rivera, identified as a co-conspirator in the case, has faced no charges.
The two assets Rivera listed in his 2012 congressional disclosure, for calendar year 2011, were a Bank of America savings account and a home in Tallahassee he co-owned with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. They sold that house earlier this year. Rivera appears to have omitted disclosing his Doral house as an asset. (He did list it in his congressional disclosure a year earlier.)
In his last disclosure filed as a state lawmaker, in 2010, Rivera estimated his net worth at about $147,000.