Justin Lamar Sternad says he was duped by campaign manager

Justin Lamar Sternad, who is to be sentenced Monday in Miami federal court for campaign-finance crimes, said in an interview Wednesday night on America TeVe that he believes former Congressman David Rivera was part of the conspiracy.

Sternad, however, said he had no direct knowledge of Rivera’s role and suggested that the former congressman’s gal pal, Ana Alliegro, had far more to do with the criminal effort to underwrite his campaign.

Neither Rivera nor Alliegro have been charged in connection with the case involving Sternad. Both Rivera and Alliegro have denied wrongdoing.

Sternad said he was “manipulated” by Alliegro and that she promised to find “Democratic donors” to help fund his longshot campaign.

Alliegro referred to the campaign’s secret financiers only as "the mafia," which Sternad said he later guessed was Rivera.

But campaign vendors hired by Sternad told The Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald last year that both Rivera and Alliegro were involved in Sternad’s race.

Sternad said Alliegro handled the campaign money and vendors, and suggested that she tricked him.

"When we first met she told me there were some Democratic donors who were willing to support me in the campaign, and that she could help me get the contributions," Sternad said. "I was new at this game. It was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done."

He said that it wasn’t until late in his campaign that he learned Alliegro would not support him beyond the Aug. 14 primary because she backed Rivera.

“I was speechless,” he told America TeVe.

The FBI launched its investigation last year after campaign vendors told the Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald that Alliegro and Rivera helped steer tens of thousands of dollars in unreported cash and checks to Sternad's Democratic campaign for Congressional District 26, which stretched from Kendall to Key West.

The federal documents in Sternad's case only say that "co-conspirators" helped direct the secret money, at least $81,486, in less than three months last summer. The cash promoted Sternad's candidacy as he attacked fellow Democrat, Joe Garcia, a rival of Rivera's.

Sternad's campaign produced at least a dozen separate types of high-quality campaign mailers that targeted a broad array of voters and, in one case, attacked Garcia over his divorce.

A political neophyte and unknown who had never run for office, Sternad didn't have the background to produce such sophisticated campaign work.

And Sternad's campaign reports showed he received no money to pay for it all. Also, his financial disclosures indicated he didn't have the cash to self-fund his campaign.

Not only were Sternad's campaign finances suspicious, his campaign manager was as well.

Alliegro was a self-described "Republican bad girl, " making the operative an odd choice to run a Democratic campaign.

As a close friend of Rivera's, Alliegro was ostensibly working against her own pal by representing Sternad, who would have faced the congressman had he won the Aug. 14 Democratic primary against Garcia and others.

Sternad lost the primary to Garcia, who went on to beat Rivera in the Nov. 6 general election.

On March 15, Sternad pleaded guilty in Miami federal court to accepting illegal campaign contributions, conspiracy and making a false statement. He faces at least one year in prison.