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By Marc Caputo, Jay Weaver, and Patricia Mazzei, The Miami Herald

MIAMI — Miami congressional candidate and ex-U.S. Rep. David Rivera 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.

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.

Alliegro’s trial had been scheduled to start Monday — a day before the Republican primary election for Florida’s 26th congressional district. Rivera, one of five candidates on the ballot, is running for his old seat.

In a surprise move, Alliegro, who had pleaded not guilty to four charges in March, used a pre-trial court appearance Tuesday to switch her plea to guilty.

“She always said she would not invoke the Fifth Amendment, and that she would tell the truth,” said Alliegro’s defense attorney, Richard Klugh. “And she intends to do that if called (upon).”

There was no plea agreement struck with prosecutors, Klugh added, saying 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.

When asked if his client was used by Rivera in the campaign finance scheme, Klugh chucked nervously but didn’t answer the question.

Photo via WikiCommons

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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