Thursday, April 26, 2018
Politics

Key witness fails to appear in federal probe of U.S. Rep. David Rivera

A key witness in the federal investigation against U.S. Rep. David Rivera failed to show up for an interview with prosecutors and FBI agents, and her family says they are worried of her whereabouts.

Ana Alliegro, a campaign manager for former Democratic congressional candidate Justin Lamar Sternad, is at the center of the federal probe of Sternad and Rivera. FBI agents are investigating whether the Republican congressman used Alliegro to secretly fund Sternad's primary race against Rivera's longtime rival, Joe Garcia. Garcia easily won the Aug. 14 primary.

Alliegro never showed up to give a statement to investigators. She had been scheduled to testify Thursday before a federal grand jury in Fort Lauderdale, but her lawyer Mauricio Padilla worked out a deal to speak directly to investigators.

"I am very worried," said her mother, Agueda "Gudy" Alliegro in an interview with El Nuevo Herald on Friday.

Gudy Alliegro said the last time she spoke with her daughter was Wednesday night when she talked about driving with her father to the interview with investigators. But she never showed up at the family home in Little Havana, recalls the mother.

The mother said she has not filed a missing person's report and that law enforcement authorities have not contacted her about her daughter's whereabouts.

She added that investigators had met with her daughter before Thursday, once to serve her with a subpoena, even arresting her for a suspended license.

"Who gets arrested for that," she said. "Ana is innocent. She really doesn't have anything to offer. She is being harassed for political interests."

Padilla, Alliegro's lawyer, said Friday that he still has not heard from his client.

The federal probe of Sternad and Rivera began last month after El Nuevo Herald and the Miami Herald reported that Sternad may have violated federal campaign-finance laws after spending thousands of dollars in cash on mailers without disclosing the source of the funds to the Federal Election Commission.

The last FEC report Sternad filed for the monthly period ending July 25 showed he spent $11,262 and spent $10,440 to pay for the state fee to qualify for the ballot in the newly drawn congressional District 26 primary race, which stretches from Kendall to Key West. He listed just $11,000 in his campaign account.

Amid the newspaper reports and the launch of a federal probe, Sternad amended his financial disclosures to show he had loaned himself nearly $53,000 more than he originally reported.

Sternad's opponents in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary claimed Sternad's campaign was directed by Rivera, who is a Republican.

Campaign vendors have told the Herald that Sternad, who had never run for public office, ran a sophisticated mail campaign orchestrated and funded by Rivera.

Sternad and his attorney, Rick Yober, have declined comment. Rivera has vehemently denied working with Sternad, referring the Herald to his statement on the matter.

"Congressman Rivera has never met or spoken to Mr. Sternad and knows absolutely nothing about him or his campaign," the statement said.

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