A former candidate under FBI investigation with former U.S. Rep David Rivera is scheduled to be charged Friday with federal crimes over his campaign finances, sources tell The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald.
The charges against Justin Lamar Sternad stem from an investigation by The Herald, which first found discrepancies in his congressional campaign finance reports last August.
The FBI then began investigating Sternad, whose reports could have concealed as much as $100,000 in services and mailers, some of which attacked a Democratic rival of Rivera, who is a Republican.
Sternad is scheduled to surrender Friday morning in federal court, charged with lying on his federal campaign reports to hide the source of secret money funneled into his run for congress. Sternad is also charged with conspiring with others as part of the alleged scheme to defraud the United States.
Sternad, cooperating with authorities, is expected to plead not guilty. His lawyer, Enrique “Rick” Yabor refused comment.
Though Rivera is a target of the investigation, his name is nowhere in the indictment of Sternad, a source told The Herald.
Sternad and two campaign vendors who performed work for him have talked to the FBI and a federal grand jury to describe Rivera’s involvement in Sternad’s mercurial bid for Congress, which ended Aug. 14 when he lost the Democratic primary to Joe Garcia, who later beat Rivera in the general election.
A close friend of Rivera’s, Ana Alliegro, worked as Sternad’s campaign manager and repeatedly delivered fat stacks of cash to Rapid Mail & Computer Service, owner John Borrero told The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and then the FBI.
Another vendor, Hugh Cochran of Campaign Data, told The Herald and FBI agents that he spoke with Rivera about running computer queries to identify voters to whom the different mailers were sent.
A third vendor, Expert Printing, produced the mailers but has refused to talk to the Herald.
Rivera has denied wrongdoing. Rivera couldn’t be reached for comment on Thursday.
Alliegro, who was supposed to talk to the FBI in September, skipped out on her meeting with federal agents and is rumored to be overseas. Initially, Alliegro’s parents and lawyer didn’t know her whereabouts. Now she has been in contact with them.
Without Alliegro’s testimony, federal authorities could have trouble determining Rivera’s actual links to the unreported stacks of cash that funded Sternad’s campaign.