Judge dismisses Federal Election Commission lawsuit against David Rivera

US District Judge Marcia Cooke vindicates former congressional candidate

MIAMI – A federal judge dismissed a Federal Election Commission lawsuit against former Miami-Dade County Congressman David Rivera involving a shell candidate in one of South Florida's most high-profile political scandals.

The five-page ruling Thursday by U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke grants Rivera's motion to dismiss the complaint that alleged he made secret illegal contributions to the campaign of a straw candidate he helped create in a scheme to thwart a potential opponent in the 2012 Congressional primary.

The candidate, Justin Lamar Sternad, eventually pleaded guilty, as did a Rivera associate, Ana Alliegro, accused as the go-between for Rivera. During her 2014 plea proceedings, Alliegro admitted to conspiracy, making false statements and facilitating illegal campaign contributions, and also named Rivera as the mastermind and financier of Sternad's straw campaign.

Rivera has repeatedly denied any role in a sham campaign scheme and has never been criminally charged.

The FEC accused Rivera of funneling more than $69,000 in campaign contributions to Sternad's campaign using assumed identities.

In dismissing the lawsuit, Cooke did not address whether Rivera was involved in the sham campaign, but cited a recent court ruling in Utah that struck down the statute cited by the FEC against Rivera.

Rivera claimed the FEC had not provided evidence that he used a false name as a political donor, made donations without Sternad's knowledge or used Alliegro to instruct Sternad to falsify disclosure forms.

In a tweet Thursday tonight, Rivera called the allegations "politically-motivated fake news."

About the Author:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."