A one-time candidate whose suspicious campaign finances led to an investigation of former Miami Congressman David Rivera was formally charged Friday in federal court with three crimes.
Justin Lamar Sternad pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, false-statement and illegal campaign-contribution charges.
Sternad, however, is expected to strike a plea deal as he cooperates with federal authorities as part of their investigation into Rivera, a Republican, and the former U.S. representative's close friend, Ana Alliegro, who managed Sternad's disastrous campaign. Sternad ran as a Democrat.
Neither Rivera nor Alliegro is listed by name in the 10-page federal charging document, which lists nameless "co-conspirators."
The co-conspirators helped steer $81,485 in cash to Sternad, who intentionally disguised the illegal campaign contributions by failing to list them on his federal campaign-finance reports.
The money paid for printing and mailing services for a batch of fliers, some of which attacked a Rivera rival, Democrat Joe Garcia, who beat Sternad in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary for the Kendall-to-Key West Congressional District 26 seat. Garcia went on to beat Rivera in the general election.
During the primary, Garcia's campaign complained that Sternad was a ringer, a stand-in attack dog doing Rivera's bidding.
Rivera, who has maintained his innocence, refused comment but pointed to past statements in which he said he never has been informed by authorities of a federal investigation.