Saturday, June 23, 2018
Politics

Ex-Rep. David Rivera's gal pal, Ana Alliegro, in FBI custody over campaign scheme

Ana Alliegro, the gal pal of former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, was arrested in Nicaragua and is being deported to Miami where she's under investigation for her role in a campaign-finance scheme tied to the one-time congressman.

"We received from the American embassy located in our country a request for her to be detained since she is accused in the state of Florida of conspiracy, illegal campaign donations and false statements for which there existed an arrested order against her," Glenda Zavala, general commissioner of the Nicaraguan National Police, told El Nuevo Diario, a newspaper in Nicaragua.

Neighbors of her business, Ana's Euro Salon and Spa, say they saw Nicaraguan authorities take her into custody on Tuesday night. By Friday, the FBI was taking her back to Miami.

Alliegro will be charged with campaign election law violations and related offenses, according to a U.S. law-enforcement source.

Alliegro first fled to Nicaragua in 2012 after the FBI began investigating her and Rivera for their potential roles in a scheme to funnel secret money to a no-name candidate who appeared to do Rivera's campaign dirty work.

That candidate, Justin Lamar Sternad, subsequently pleaded guilty to breaking federal campaign-finance laws and lying about it.

For the first time, in campaign-finance reports he updated in January, Sternad named Alliegro and Rivera as being central to the conspiracy to steer $81,486.15 to his campaign for Congress against fellow Democrat Joe Garcia.

Alliegro and Rivera, who have long denied wrongdoing, couldn't be reached for comment.

The bulk of the illegal money was used to pay for the production and mailing of campaign flyers, at least one of which attacked Garcia over his divorce.

Sternad told the Herald and federal authorities at one point that Alliegro ran his Democratic campaign — an odd position for the self-described Republican "bad girl" who was a close associate of the Republican congressman.

"I later discovered that Ana Alliegro was working with David Rivera," Sternad wrote in an amended campaign-finance report that the Federal Elections Commission posted Jan. 30.

In three separate FEC filings, Sternad repeatedly identified Alliegro and Rivera as playing a role in managing the illegal money.

But during the 2012 Democratic primary, Sternad filed false FEC reports. None disclosed his source of funds.

The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald first reported the suspicious campaign activity in the summer of 2012 after two campaign vendors went on record and said Alliegro and Rivera were behind Sternad's campaign.

The FBI then began investigating. Sternad then pleaded guilty.

Amid the investigation, Garcia won the 2012 Democratic primary and then beat then-Rep. Rivera to win the state's southernmost congressional district, which stretches from the Miami area to Key West.

The investigation into Alliegro and Rivera churned on.

At one point, last year, Alliegro returned to the United States and met with federal authorities. But she quickly left town under mysterious circumstances.

While in Nicaragua, Alliegro was frequently visited by Rivera, who remained in contact with her by email and phone as well, the Miami Herald learned. It was unclear how she could support herself; her father said in a brief email exchange last year with a Herald reporter that he wasn't sending her much money.

Tom Mulvihill, the assistant U.S. attorney in charge of the investigation into her and Rivera, refused to comment on Friday.

"I would never comment one way or the other," he said.

Miami Herald staff writers Patricia Mazzei and Jay Weaver contributed to this report.

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