Miami congressional candidate and ex-U.S. Rep. David Rivera, who sought two years ago to become the Keys' congressman, was officially named as a co-conspirator Tuesday in federal court when his friend and confederate pleaded guilty to criminal campaign-finance violations.
That defendant, Ana Alliegro, didn't name Rivera -- that was done by a federal prosecutor at the urging of a judge who wanted to know the identity of a man previously identified only as a "“co-conspirator."
According to prosecutors, that person, along with Alliegro, secretly funded the 2012 Democratic primary campaign of ringer candidate Justin Lamar Sternad, who has been sentenced to seven months in prison.
In 2012, the Republican Rivera lost to Democrat Joe Garcia in the District 26 general election. Garcia had easily defeated Sternad in the Democratic primary. District 26 takes in the Keys and parts of Miami-Dade County.
This year, Garcia is the only Democrat in the District 26 race. Rivera is joined by four other Republicans.
Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Mulvihill initially declined to name Rivera, but then did so at the direction of U.S. District Judge Robert Scola. Court records had already indicated that Rivera was the unnamed "Co-Conspirator A." Sternad and his attorney had also named the former congressman.
Rivera did not immediately return a call to his cell phone Tuesday. His voice mailbox was full.
Alliegro's trial had been scheduled for this coming Monday -- a day before the Republican primary.
In a surprise move, Alliegro, who had pleaded not guilty to four charges in March, used a routine court appearance Tuesday, known as a calendar call, to switch her plea to guilty.
"She always said she would not invoke the Fifth Amendment, and that she would tell the truth," said one of Alliegro's defense attorneys, Richard Klugh. "And she intends to do that if called" upon.
Mulvihill would not say whether Alliegro is cooperating in the investigation against Rivera.
There was no plea agreement struck with the government, according to prosecutors and defense attorneys Klugh and John Bergendahl. Klugh said Alliegro chose to change her plea of her own volition. She pleaded guilty to four counts of making a false statement, conspiring and making illegal campaign contributions.
She faces a maximum five years in prison, though that penalty would likely be lower if she cooperated in the case against Rivera. Her sentencing has been scheduled for Sept. 10.
"The federal system rewards and recognizes the importance of responsibility and telling the truth," Klugh said.
Asked if his client was used by Rivera in the campaign-finance scheme, Klugh chuckled nervously but didn't answer the question.
The FBI began investigating two years ago after the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald questioned Sternad's campaign finances. The rookie candidate had raised little money and yet was mailing slick fliers that targeted specific groups of voters. Alliegro, a Republican, was his de facto campaign manager.