Former U.S. Rep. David Rivera avoided criminal charges in an unlawful campaign-finance scheme he was suspected of masterminding. Now he’s evading the feds again — this time, U.S. marshals trying to serve him with a civil lawsuit.
Since July, marshals have attempted to formally notify Rivera in person, by phone, by overnight mail and via email that the Federal Election Commission sued him, seeking $486,000 in penalties for at least $69,000 in unreported campaign cash Rivera funneled to a ringer candidate in 2012.
Each time, Rivera, a 2018 candidate for the Florida House of Representatives, has eluded them.
His unknown whereabouts — and a delay of service attempts due to Hurricane Irma — prompted FEC attorney Greg J. Mueller to ask U.S. District Judge Robert Scola on Thursday for 60 more days to serve Rivera. Scola granted the request Friday, giving the feds until Dec. 11 to serve the lawsuit.
“The Commission’s diligent efforts to serve Rivera have been thwarted so far by Rivera’s apparent evasion of service,” Mueller wrote in his request to Scola. “Rivera is almost certainly aware of this lawsuit.”
Four times, marshals tried to serve Rivera in person. On the first occasion, three days after the FEC sued on July 17, a deputy marshal visited Rivera’s townhouse, inside a Doral gated community.
“The Deputy Marshal then encountered an individual in the driveway at that address who ‘refused to answer questions’ regarding Rivera,” Mueller wrote.
The marshals tried him again there on July 24, to no avail.
On July 25 and 26, they visited two other addresses linked to Rivera in Fontainebleau and West Kendall. No luck.
On Oct. 4, Mueller called Rivera’s cellphone and got a voicemail message noting he was out of the country. A Miami Herald reporter got the same message Friday when she telephoned and texted Rivera.
“He may also coincidentally have been out of the country for an extended period of time since the complaint was filed,” Mueller noted in his request.
Several Florida news outlets have covered the lawsuit, filed July 17. About a month later, the statute of limitations expired in a federal investigation in which Rivera was suspected of orchestrating a scheme to unlawfully finance congressional candidate Justin Lamar Sternad against Joe Garcia in the 2012 Democratic primary. Garcia won and ultimately defeated Rivera, then a one-term incumbent.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Mulvihill twice identified Rivera as the case’s “Co-Conspirator A” in open court, but Rivera was never charged. Sternad and another conspirator, political consultant Ana Alliegro, who is also Rivera’s ex-girlfriend, served jail time.
The FEC waited until the criminal case ran its course before pursuing civil penalties against Rivera in July.
Rivera was spotted as recently as Sept. 27 in Coral Gables.
Miami Herald staff writer Joey Flechas contributed to this report.