David Rivera: Con-man, scoundrel… spy?

David Rivera is back in the news, which means he’s in trouble again. 

U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Cooke found that Rivera violated campaign finance laws by “making contributions in the name of another” person when he secretly funneled more than $75,000 in campaign donations to Justin Sternad, a phantom candidate running against Joe Garcia back in 2012. Rivera has been ordered to pay a $456,000 civil penalty to the U.S. government. He must also cover $927 in court costs for repeatedly not showing up for depositions in the Federal Election Commission case. 

Let us see if he pays… Judge Cooke specifically said that Rivera has the money to pay the fine. I don’t doubt he can get his hands on the money, it’s just that for years Rivera has broken the law and others end up in jail. 

I once called Rivera a cockroach — the slimy, slippery pests that you step on thinking you’ve killed them only to see them slither away minutes later. Others have referred to him as a cat with more than nine lives. But I argue that cats make great pets and companions to many and are beautiful creatures. So I refuse to insult the cat world in that way.

For too many years Rivera has behaved like a gangster, gotten away with it, and we still don’t know who he works for.

Here’s a thought

Anyone who’s read enough American history coming after World War II will acknowledge that U.S. covert agencies, like the CIA, have a history of bungling covert operations by too often hiring inept gangsters to do their dirty work. 

I bring this up because when he reported his employment while in the Florida legislature, Rivera wrote that he worked for USAID, the United States Agency for International Development, which claims to be responsible for administering civilian foreign aid and development assistance. At times, as was the case with Alan Gross, a USAID contractor who was arrested in Cuba while working on a program funded under the 1996 Helms–Burton Act (which explicitly calls for the overthrow of the Cuban government), this Agency has been infiltrated by shady operatives from unknown places in the U.S. government whose role is to overthrow governments overseas. 

Interestingly, when asked, USAID said Rivera never worked for it — turning the David Rivera story into the stuff of spy novels and movies. Who can forget the scenes in Mission Impossible where the agent is warned: “(Just for fun let’s put the name of David here), should you choose to accept this mission, … As always, should you or any of your IM Force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape/disc will self-destruct in five to 10 seconds. Good luck.” 

After the “good luck,” we see the tape machine dissolve into smoke.

I bring all this up because after a quarter century of corrupt-laden Rivera schemes, smoke screens, and unconstitutional legislative proposals while in Tallahassee and Washington, DC, which have cost taxpayers millions, Rivera is still hanging around as if it wasn’t his fault. In the meantime, in 2020, the same Rivera who pounds his chest and claims to be Miami’s number one anti-communist, and a hater of the current governments of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, was revealed to have landed a $50 million contract in 2017 from the Venezuelan government in an effort to “prevent U.S. sanctions against the Maduro socialist regime.” Reports state that he actually pocketed $15 million of that money and that the Venezuelans who contracted him (who must be dumb as a box of rocks) are after him in court for not fulfilling his commitments.

The conversation

It reminded me of a  conversation I had with a very close friend of Rivera’s, back around 2005 or ’06, while he was still in Tallahassee and trying to create havoc for Cuba travelers. This man told me that “David could easily become a Fidelista if there was enough money involved…” At the time we were lobbying Governor Charlie Crist (who ignored us) on Rivera’s unconstitutional law (later overturned by the courts). To this day I still ask myself if the aforementioned lobbyist was telling us that the solution was in a large payoff… Point of note, that David friend later went on to do big business with Cuba — all conducted perfectly legal. 

The fact remains that David Rivera runs free while others have gone to jail and prison while doing his dirty work. And it amazes me how the federal government, state agencies, and our own Miami-Dade state attorney have always found a way to look the other way with David for his corrupt and corrupting mischief. I’ve always reacted with a hand to the chin, squint-eye look to the sky while letting out a “hmmmm!”

Proof is in the pudding

I quickly went searching for examples of Rivera’s hooliganism over the years. Here are just a few examples:

  • About a decade ago, the Associated Press reported that Rivera, over the eight years he spent in the state legislature, gave himself more than $160,000 in campaign reimbursements, $60,000 completely unexplained.
  • In 2011, the Miami Herald found that investigators had looked into Rivera’s relationship with political consultant Esther Nuhfer, who reportedly had received more than $800,000 from Rivera’s campaigns since 2006, and who took in $250,000 from Rivera’s aborted 2010 state Senate candidacy.
  • In 2011, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) named Rivera as one of the Most Corrupt Members of Congress. “It’s almost hard to find a law enforcement agency that isn’t investigating Rep. Rivera,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan at the time.
  • Then there’s the case of Millennium Marketing Inc. Founded in 2000 by Rep. Rivera’s mother, Rivera claimed to be employed there from 2002-2005. It was mysteriously closed and reappeared in 2006, (this time with David’s godmother in charge) as voters were about to consider a ballot measure on slot machines. Lawyers from Miami’s Flagler Dog Track (now Magic City Casino) said that then State Representative Rivera approached them to manage the pro-slots campaign, asking that payments be made to the newly reorganized Millennium Marketing Inc. The contract called for Millennium to be paid more than a million dollars, none of which Rep. Rivera reported receiving as income. Both the FBI and IRS investigated. He had received $132,000 in personal loans from Millennium Marketing that he failed to disclose.
  • From 2004 to 2010, news outlets called David Rivera the most thankful lawmaker in the Florida Legislature. Nice guy David spent almost $243,000 in campaign donations on “thank you” expenses — accounting for almost one-quarter of all the thank-you money spent in Florida by politicians during that period, a Miami Herald analysis of state campaign data found.
  • Also in 2011, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement wanted to charge Rivera for 52 counts of theft, money laundering and racketeering over his alleged mis-use of campaign money. But state prosecutors said the alleged crimes were too old or too tough to prosecute. Another example of Rivera’s many cockroach lives…
  • Then there’s the case of Ana Alliegro. She was charged with helping to illegally steer about $82,000 in falsely reported campaign money to the election account of a one-time candidate, Justin Lamar Sternad which I’ve referenced on top. Both Sternad and Alliegro served time. The whole thing was orchestrated by Rivera, but he was the only one to come out clean.
  • Before serving her time in a U.S. prison, Alliegro fled the country and hid in Nicaragua. From all reports, Rivera visited her frequently there. A Miami Herald report discovered records that showed Rivera would cross over into Nicaragua from Costa Rica, on one occasion with Alliegro, 26 seconds apart. Why didn’t he fly on direct flights from Miami to Nicaragua?

The list is much longer. And there’s no doubt that Rivera is con-man, scoundrel and, well, I won’t reference his mother, she has passed away…

But what I shall never understand is how this man has gotten away with so much over the years and still walks the streets of Miami as a hero of the far right Cuban community. It hearkens back to the Mission Impossible example I cited earlier: “David, should you choose to accept this mission… all in its path will be forgiven.”

The final question then becomes: What is David Rivera’s mission?

Miami’s best known cockroach is back – still up to no good