By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Lamar Sternad, who ran in the Democratic primary against Joe Garcia for a South Florida congressional seat, admitted to the FBI that he was a stooge for incumbent Republican David Rivera. Garcia is Rivera’s challenger on the November ballot.
In the past few weeks, many signs have pointed to the possibility that Sternad was a ringer paid for by Rivera to rough up Garcia. Until now, both Sternad and Rivera denied the allegations.
Sternad, 35, also told authorities that his campaign manager, Ana Sol Alliegro, acted as the conduit between the campaign and Rivera, who allegedly steered unreported cash to the Democrat’s campaign, according to sources familiar with the investigation and records shared with The Herald.
Sternad said Alliegro referred to the congressman by his initials, “D.R.,” and called him by the nickname, “The Gangster.”
“We will respond when these so-called ‘sources’ are willing to go on the record,” said attorney Michael R. Band, who represents Rivera. “We are not going to respond to unfounded rumors and innuendo. My client is in the middle of an election and it’s unfair for us to be shadow-boxing with unnamed sources.”
Sternad’s account to federal authorities supports what two campaign vendors told The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald: that the congressman was the driver behind a botched attempt to plant a candidate in the District 26 congressional primary.
Sternad has acknowledged to the feds that he never met Rivera, the sources said, a point that the Republican congressman has long claimed.
Sternad told authorities that he was promised a good job by Alliegro even if he lost. Instead, it looks like Sternad is on his way to a possible indictment.
The Herald pointed out in August that there was a lot amiss with Sternad’s campaign. First, he was spending bundles of cash (literally) on mailers smearing Garcia, yet there was no record of where the money was coming from. According to initial paperwork, Sternad had raised only $11,383, but $10,878 of that came from Sternad himself. He also had to spend $10,440 of all of that to qualify to run for election.
Clearly, Sternad did not have enough money to paper the city with anti-Garcia mailers, but he somehow obtained the money.
According to the Herald, besides the bizarre nature of the mailers, they also happened to be printed at the same place in Hialeah that did more than $100,000 of work for Rivera in 2010. People who worked there said the mailers were paid for with bundles of cash and had heard Alliegro mention that she was going to discuss the allegations with both “Lamar and David.”
However, the jig was really up when, a few weeks after the initial story broke, Rivera continued to deny his involvement and said he was holding Stenard campaign reports proving he didn’t pay for the mailers.
Turns out, though, those campaign reports hadn’t been filed yet and weren’t public record.
Rivera — who denies ever knowing Sternad — also produced a copy of a new campaign report for Sternad that purported to show, for the first time, that the Democrat’s campaign had paid Rapid Mail. Earlier in the day, a reporter for Miami-based America TeVé said the congressman called her and told her to go to see Sternad’s lawyer, where she would get a scoop on the new campaign report. The lawyer never gave it to her.
Rivera didn’t explain how he got the report, and Federal Elections Commission officials told the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald on Wednesday that the document had not been received yet by the FEC.
Rivera has been named one the “most corrupt” people in Washington by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. According to the group, before this incident Rivera was already “under investigation by the FBI and IRS for failing to report income from a consulting firm connected to his family and misusing campaign funds.”