Elections

Secret lockbox contents could shed light — or not — on how David Rivera got rich

After then-U.S. Rep. David Rivera was sworn into Congress in 2011, he posed with his sister, Diana Rivera McKenzie, his mother, Daisy Magarino, and then-Speaker John Boehner.
After then-U.S. Rep. David Rivera was sworn into Congress in 2011, he posed with his sister, Diana Rivera McKenzie, his mother, Daisy Magarino, and then-Speaker John Boehner. AP

How ex-U.S. Rep. David Rivera, now a Republican candidate for the statehouse, became a million-dollar man in his three years out of political office remains an enigma.

The most obvious explanation has been that he inherited his newfound wealth from his late mother, who died in 2013.

Daisy Magarino, who also went by Daisy Rivera, left no will, according to records in Miami-Dade County probate court. But she did keep a safety-deposit box at a Doral bank.

What was inside? Who knows? Like much of David Rivera’s finances, what was inside the lockbox remains a secret.

Its contents could solve the puzzle of what happened to her estate. But there’s no public accounting of them, even though a judge ordered one.

Magarino’s daughter, Diana Rivera McKenzie, asked the judge for permission to open the box. Her reasoning: A will might be inside. Her brother, the former congressman, raised no objection.

Go ahead, Judge Michael Genden said. In December 2014, he ordered the box unlocked.

Eighteen months later, there is still no record of what the Riveras found — or even if they opened the box. Despite the judge’s order that an inventory of the box’s contents be “immediately” filed with the court, no such list has been turned in.

Did Magarino leave behind a will? Jewels? Property deeds? Gold doubloons? Nothing but personal mementos?

The answers matter not only to David Rivera and his sister (and voters, if they choose to care about how the candidate got rich): Two creditors filed claims against Magarino’s estate. Kendall Regional Medical Center said she owed $4,312.05. Mercy Hospital said she owed $327.24. Neither claim has been satisfied, according to court records.

Rivera, as has become habit, did not respond to e-mailed questions from the Miami Herald. He has claimed to work as a “business development consultant.”

When he qualified last week to run again for the Florida House of Representatives, where he began his political career in 2002, Rivera disclosed that his net worth has grown to more than $1.5 million. He now owns three properties in Mexico and bank accounts worth more than $300,000 each in Mexico and Taiwan. He hasn’t explained how he acquired any of them.

Rivera now owns three properties in Mexico and bank accounts worth more than $300,000 each in Mexico and Taiwan. He hasn’t explained how he acquired any of them.

It’s possible Rivera inherited wealth from his mother through some other ownership arrangement, though he never disclosed the overseas properties or bank accounts in his 12 years in office. If any of it was part of her estate, it doesn’t appear in probate court records. His sister estimated in one of the filings that her mother’s estate was worth less than $75,000.

Magarino told prosecutors in a 2011 deposition that she worked part-time as a condo-association clerk.

The deposition was part of a state investigation into Rivera’s finances, prompted by a Herald revelation that Rivera funneled money to his mother from a secret consulting contract with Flagler Dog Track, now Magic City Casino. No charges resulted from that investigation or a subsequent federal-tax investigation.

Rivera has also escaped charges in a separate, federal criminal investigation into an unlawful campaign-finance scheme he’s suspected of orchestrating in 2012 — even though Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Mulvihill has publicly named Rivera the plot’s lead “co-conspirator.”

McKenzie, whose name appears in court as Diana McKenzie Rivera, could not be reached for comment. Her attorney, Susan Rosales, acknowledged Wednesday that the case is missing the itemized list of the safety-deposit box’s contents. A stamp on the judge’s Dec. 18, 2014, order says that the “bank officer shall immediately file with the court the inventory signed by both parties.”

“I never got a response from the client,” Rosales said. “The bank was supposed to file what they found, an itemization, and that was never done.... They haven’t filed what they’re supposed to file, but it is my ultimate responsibility.”

TD Bank declined to comment on Magarino’s box, citing client privacy, but said it’s not the bank’s duty to file the itemization. Spokeswoman Martha Gaston pointed to Florida law, which says the “personal representative” — McKenzie or her attorney — “shall file the safe-deposit box inventory” within 10 days after opening. Meantime, the personal representative “may remove the contents of the box.”

Attorney Rosales said she came to represent McKenzie because she knew Rivera, who asked her if she could take on the case. Rivera is listed only as an interested party; he waived his right to contest his sister’s petition to open the box.

The court hasn’t followed up since January 2015, when the probate division sent Rosales a memo reminding her to file several records — including the missing inventory.

David Rivera’s declared personal assets

▪ Household goods and personal effects: $50,000

▪ Property in Doral: $224,390

▪ Property in Uman, Yucatan, Mexico: $250,000

▪ Property in Acanceh, Yucatan, Mexico: $100,000

▪ Property in Kanasin, Yucatan, Mexico: $50,000

▪ 401(K) savings plan: $135,108.91

▪ Savings/checking account, Citigroup/Banamex in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico: $333,196.08

▪ Escrow/bonds account, Mega International Commercial Bank in Taipei City, Taiwan: $320,000

▪ Checking account, JPMorgan Chase Bank: $3,503.92

▪ Savings account, JPMorgan Chase Bank: $1,838.23

▪ IRA certificate: $2,431.12

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