Former Florida GOP congressman arrested over ties to Venezuelan authorities

A former Miami congressman who signed a $50-million consulting contract with Venezuela’s socialist authorities was arrested Monday on suspicion of money-laundering and representing a international authorities with out registering.

David Rivera, a Republican who has been marred by scandals relationship again to his days in Congress from 2011 to 2013, was arrested at Atlanta’s airport, in keeping with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami.

The eight-count indictment alleges that Rivera, in the beginning of the Trump administration, was a part of a conspiracy to foyer on behalf of Venezuela to decrease tensions with the U.S., resolve a authorized dispute with a U.S. oil firm and finish U.S. sanctions in opposition to the South American nation — all with out registering as a international agent.

The indictment cites conferences in Washington, New York and Dallas that Rivera both attended or tried to arrange for allies of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with U.S. lawmakers and a prime Trump aide. To conceal the delicate nature of his work, prosecutors say, Rivera referred to Maduro in chat messages because the “bus driver,” a congressman as “Sombrero” and thousands and thousands of {dollars} as “melons.”

While not one of the U.S. officers is known as, proof in a parallel lawsuit introduced in opposition to Rivera present that, whereas working for Venezuela, the previous congressman was in touch with Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a longtime pal who helped drive the Trump administration’s hard-line coverage on Maduro.

As a part of the allure offensive, Rivera additionally regarded to arrange a doable flight and a gathering on the jet between a pro-Maduro businessman and a feminine marketing campaign advisor-turned-White House “counselor” on June 27, 2017 — the identical day Trump aide Kellyanne Conway was in Miami for a fundraising dinner with Miami Republicans.

Rivera additionally roped in GOP Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas to attempt to arrange a gathering for Venezuela’s international minister with executives from Exxon, which was headquartered in Sessions’ district on the time.

In July 2017, for instance, the indictment alleges that Rivera wrote textual content messages to an unnamed U.S. senator forward of a key assembly on the White House the place he hoped the senator would talk about a doable deal to finish Venezuela’s cussed political battle.

“Remember, US should facilitate, not just support, a negotiated solution,” he wrote. “No vengeance, reconciliation.”

Rubio and Sessions’ places of work didn’t instantly reply to requests for remark.

Pressure has been constructing on Rivera for greater than two years after it emerged that he acquired the large contract from a U.S. affiliate of Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm as Maduro was making an attempt to curry favor with the Trump administration.

Rivera’s Interamerican Consulting was sued in 2020 by PDV USA — a Delaware-based affiliate of Venezuelan-owned Citgo — for not dwelling as much as the contract he signed in 2017 for 3 months of “strategic consulting.”

Although Rivera’s contract was initially signed with a U.S. entity, any work he carried out on behalf of Maduro’s authorities or Venezuelan enterprise pursuits required him to register as a international lobbyist.

It was one thing prosecutors say Rivera acknowledged himself in October 2017 when he despatched a textual content message relaying a lawyer’s recommendation to steer clear of dad or mum firm PDVSA in Caracas, with failure to take action risking “a scandal of monumental proportions.” Three weeks later, prosecutors say Rivera acquired a $5-million fee from PDVSA’s account at Gazprom Bank in Russia.

Rivera, 57, has maintained his innocence and has countersued PDV USA, alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment for its failure to pay $30 million he says he’s nonetheless owed. A lawyer for Rivera stated he had not seen the indictment, and Rivera himself didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

The U.S. Marshals Service stated Rivera bailed out of jail Monday afternoon after making an preliminary look in Atlanta federal courtroom.

Around the time Rivera was employed, Maduro’s authorities was searching for to courtroom the brand new Trump administration, donating $500,000 to the brand new president’s inaugural committee by Citgo. The outreach effort in the end failed, because the U.S. in 2019 acknowledged opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s official chief and imposed stiff oil sanctions on the OPEC member nation in a bid to unseat Maduro.

Records that emerged as a part of the continuing lawsuit present that Rivera’s consulting work was carefully coordinated with Raul Gorrin, a Venezuelan insider and media tycoon who has been sanctioned and indicted within the U.S. on money-laundering prices.

Correspondence launched as a part of the lawsuit exhibits Rivera and Gorrin discussing shopping for “concert tickets” — a doable code phrase for bribes — for unnamed officers and making an attempt to coordinate a gathering between Venezuela’s international minister and executives from Exxon.

As a part of that effort, in addition they roped in Sessions, who secretly traveled to Venezuela in 2018 to fulfill with Maduro.

Before being elected to Congress, Rivera was a high-ranking Florida state legislator, serving from 2003 to 2010 within the House. During that point, he shared a Tallahassee dwelling with Rubio, who ultimately grew to become Florida House speaker.

Rivera has been embroiled in a number of election-related controversies, together with orchestrating the stealth funding of an unknown Democratic candidate to tackle his essential rival in a South Florida congressional race and a state investigation into whether or not he hid a $1-million contract with a playing firm. That probe additionally concerned doable misuse of marketing campaign funds to pay for state House actions whose bills had been already reimbursed by the state.

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