In his first sit down English-language television interview in weeks, U.S. Rep. David Rivera defended himself Sunday against a federal grand-jury investigation into his alleged involvement in a primary campaign against his Democratic opponent.
At one point, Rivera pulled out a black Sony tape recorder and held it up against his lapel microphone to play a recording of what he said was a telephone message from an FBI witness in the case.
The FBI is investigating whether Rivera illegally funneled secret money to Justin Lamar Sternad, who lost in the Aug. 14 primary to Joe Garcia. Garcia now faces Rivera.
"No federal agency has ever stated or confirmed that I am under investigation for anything," Rivera told WPLG-ABC 10's Michael Putney on This Week in South Florida.
What Rivera didn't say: State records show that federal authorities as late as last year were investigating him in a separate matter stemming from a secret $500,000 dog track payment the congressman had arranged.
Rivera had denied at the time that he was even under state investigation or that he had a lawyer. Records showed otherwise.
In the latest investigation, at least two campaign vendors have told The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald that they had been interviewed by federal authorities concerning Sternad's campaign, which was fueled by tens of thousands of unreported money -- much of it cash.
The FBI was scheduled to speak to Ana Sol Alliegro, Sternad's campaign manager who apparently acted as Sternad's conduit to Rivera. She disappeared from public view several weeks ago.
A target of a federal investigation is typically not informed of the probe until it is wrapping up or investigators have compiled enough evidence to confront their subject.
When Putney pressed Rivera about his involvement in Sternad's campaign leading up to the August primary, Rivera tried to discredit vendor Hugh Cochran, who has said Rivera hired his company, Campaign Data, to target voters to receive Sternad fliers.
"Let me play you a little tape from Mr. Cochran, a voice mail that he left with the Miami Herald reporter that is involved in running this story," Rivera said. "Just so you know Mr. Cochran's agenda."
Rivera played a recording that he said was of a voice mail from Cochran to El Nuevo Herald Executive Editor Manny Garcia. On the recording, Cochran suggests looking into rental properties owned by Rivera staffer Alina Garcia and provides her purported cell phone number.
The number is actually Manny Garcia's. Cochran said Sunday he thinks Rivera obtained the recording because Cochran mistakenly called Alina Garcia instead of Manny Garcia and left the message mixing up the phone numbers on her voice mail.
Manny Garcia had called Cochran, a retired FBI agent, asking if he knew where Alliegro might be hiding. Cochran was one of several poeple that the Herald had contacted, including Rivera, Alliegro's parents, lawyer and friends. Alliegro did not return repeated calls and text messages from the Herald. There is no relation between Joe Garcia, Manny Garcia and Alina Garcia.
"My recollection is I probably said, 'Well, if I think of some place, I'll let you know,'" Cochran told the Herald on Sunday, adding that he later thought Alliegro might be staying with Alina Garcia. "It sounds like I probably left it on the answering machine, and it was the wrong answering machine."
Most Popular Stories
- Aetna Leaving California's Individual Health Insurance Market
- Honda Says Sorry About the Lack of Electric Fits
- Calories Count: Starbucks to Post the Numbers on Menu Boards
- Comcast Takes a Stake in a YouTube Content Provider
- OSH Selling Most of Its Stores to Lowe's
- What Will Happen When Quantitative Easing Ends?
- First Person Cured of AIDS Virus Wants to Help Others
- Katy Perry: Learned About Divorce Via Text Message
- Is Stock Balloon Really a Pinata?
- Google Wants to Share PRISM Information