Re: Ex-Miami US Rep. David Rivera arrested in Venezuela probe

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Dec 6, 2022, 6:40:03 AM12/6/22
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<> wrote:
> He's a RINO like Mitt Romney. Investigate Mitt Romney too.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A former Miami congressman who signed a $50
million consulting contract with Venezuela’s socialist
government was arrested Monday on charges of money laundering
and representing a foreign government without registering.

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

The eight-count indictment alleges Rivera at the start of the
Trump administration was part of a conspiracy to lobby on behalf
of Venezuela to lower tensions with the U.S., resolve a legal
dispute with a U.S. oil company and end U.S. sanctions against
the South American nation — all without registering as a foreign

The indictment cites meetings in Washington, New York and Dallas
that Rivera either attended or tried to set up for allies of
President Nicolas Maduro with U.S. lawmakers and a top aide to
former President Donald Trump. To hide the sensitive nature of
his work, prosecutors allege Rivera referred to Maduro in chat
messages as the “bus driver,” a congressman as “Sombrero” and
millions of dollars as “melons.”

While none of the U.S. officials are named, evidence in a
parallel lawsuit brought against Rivera show that while working
for Venezuela the former congressman was in contact with Sen.
Marco Rubio, a longtime friend who helped drive the Trump
administration’s hardline policy against Maduro.

As part of the charm offensive, he also looked to set up a
possible flight and meeting on a the jet of a pro-Maduro
businessman for a female campaign adviser turned White House
“counselor” on June 27, 2017 — the same day Trump aide Kellyanne
Conway was in Miami for a fundraising dinner with Miami

He also roped in Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas to try and set up a
meeting for Venezuela’s foreign minister with executives from
Exxon, which was headquartered in Sessions’ district at the time.

In July 2017, for example, the indictment alleges Rivera wrote
in text messages to the unnamed U.S. senator ahead of a key
meeting at the White House where he hoped the lawmaker would
discuss with Trump a possible deal to end Venezuela’s never-
ending political conflict.

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

Rubio and Sessions’ offices didn’t immediately respond to email
and phone requests for comment.

Pressure has been building on Rivera for more than two years
after it emerged that he received the massive contract from a
U.S. affiliate of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company as Maduro
was trying to curry favor with the Trump White House.

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

Although Rivera’s contract was originally signed with a U.S.
entity, any work he performed on behalf of Maduro’s government
or Venezuelan business interests required him to register as a
foreign lobbyist.

It was something prosecutors allege Rivera acknowledged himself
in October 2017 when he sent a text message relaying a lawyer’s
advice not to get anywhere near parent company PDVSA in Caracas
and that failure to stay away “would be a scandal of monumental
proportions.” Three weeks later, prosecutors say he received a
$5 million payment from PDVSA’s account at Gazprom Bank in

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 is still owed. A lawyer
for Rivera said he had not seen the indictment and Rivera did
not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The U.S. Marshals Service said Rivera bailed out of jail Monday
afternoon after making an initial appearance in Atlanta federal

Around the time Rivera was hired, Maduro’s government was
seeking to court the Trump’s administration, donating $500,000
to his inaugural committee through Citgo and initially avoiding
outright criticism of the new U.S. president, who had a penchant
for praising strongmen including Russia’s Vladimir Putin and
North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

The outreach effort ultimately failed, as Trump in 2019
recognized opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s
legitimate leader and imposed stiff oil sanctions on the OPEC
nation in a bid to unseat Maduro.

Records that emerged as part of the ongoing lawsuit show
Rivera’s consulting work was closely coordinated with Raul
Gorrin — a Venezuelan insider and media tycoon who has been
sanctioned and indicted in the U.S. on money laundering charges.

Prior to being charged in late 2018, Gorrin had enmeshed himself
in south Florida, where he owned a luxurious home, and fashioned
himself a peacemaker who could build bridges across Venezuela’s
deep political divide as well as between Maduro’s government and
the U.S.

While Rivera was working with Venezuela, Gorrin’s TV network
hired Trump-connected lobbyist Brian Ballard to purportedly
explore opportunities for a U.S. expansion. During that time
Gorrin took a photo with Vice President Mike Pence at an event
in Miami. It was also during this time that prosecutors allege
Rivera tried to arrange a meeting aboard the private jet for the
visiting White House adviser.

“The six-hour meeting with (the President of the United
States)’s counselor . . . is more important than the meeting
with (the Vice-President of the United States), because she made
him president directing his campaign. And she works at his side
every day,” Rivera texted the businessman, who is identified
only as “Foreign Individual 1” in the indictment.

Correspondence introduced as part of the lawsuit shows Rivera
and the businessman also discussing buying “concert tickets” — a
possible code word for bribes — to unnamed officials and
attempting to coordinate a meeting between Venezuela’s foreign
minister and executives from Exxon.

As part of that effort, they also roped in Sessions, who
secretly traveled to Venezuela in 2018 to meet with Maduro.

Prosecutors allege some of the $15 million that Rivera received
as part of the contract was funneled to pay for maintenance on
one of the businessman’s superyachts. Other funds were
transferred to Miami-based political consultant Esther Nuhfer,
who was also charged. A smaller amount was paid to another
woman, an unnamed Orlando-based political consultant, who acted
as a liaison to the U.S. congressman.

Rivera’s contract had all the hallmarks of a sham, according to
PDV USA, which since 2019 has been run by directors appointed by
the U.S.-backed opposition.

According to the lawsuit, Rivera’s Interamerican made just
$9,500 in the year before being picked, out of the blue, by
Venezuela’s then Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez without any
due diligence. Rivera never met in person with anyone from Citgo
or PDV USA while supposedly working on its behalf. Instead, he
filed two “deficient and incoherent” progress reports of the
seven he was required to submit.

“The written record is bereft of any evidence that Interamerican
performed any of the contracted services,” PDV USA argues in
court filings. “There is not a single email, a single PowerPoint
presentation, a single outline, a single memorandum, a single
calendar entry, or anything else suggesting that Interamerican
ever performed any of the services.”

Before being elected to Congress, Rivera was a high-ranking
Florida legislator, serving from 2003 to 2010 in the House.
During that time he shared a Tallahassee home with Rubio, who
eventually became Florida House speaker.

Rivera has been embroiled in several election-related
controversies, including orchestrating the stealth funding of an
unknown Democratic candidate to take on his main rival in a
South Florida congressional race and a state investigation into
whether he hid a $1 million contract with a gambling company.
That probe also involved possible misuse of campaign funds to
pay for state House activities already reimbursed by the state.



Dec 6, 2022, 8:30:03 AM12/6/22
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