Alliegro's lawyer called Carollo's allegations "scandalous and unfounded," and Alliegro now says it was Carollo who was abusive.

Throughout, Alliegro's ties to the local GOP deepened. Her runs at office never took off, but her consulting career was busy, with clients including former state Rep. Manuel Prie­guez and former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre.

But her tightest relationship of all was with David Rivera. A mutual friend introduced them at Caffe Abracci in Coral Gables, and he called her as she was driving home. "The whole conversation was about movies," she says. "We are both movie buffs. We started hanging out."

In between her rocky marriages, Rivera was there for her. "In the 14 years I've known him, David has always been a gentleman," she says. "He's never raised his voice at me."

Once a rising star in Florida's GOP, though, the ex-congressman has become the most controversial politico in town over the past four years.

During his 2010 run for U.S. Congress, state and federal investigators opened a probe into whether he accepted more than $500,000 in secret payments from the owners of Flagler Dog Track to help pass slot-machine gambling. Last year, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office released documents showing prosecutors had prepared 52 charges, but the case did not move forward because a statute of limitations had expired. The FBI and IRS, meanwhile, opened their own investigations.

Buried in bad press, Rivera faced a stiff challenge from rising Democrat Joe Garcia last year. As Garcia prepared for his primary, Alliegro met a lumpy Miami Beach hotel employee named Justin Lamar Sternad, whom she took to lunch at Miller's Miami Falls Ale House to discuss his interest in entering politics.

"He insisted on running for Congress," says Alliegro, who told him to seek a less ambitious post. "I never enticed or induced him, much less handled any money."

She offered to help, though, because Sternad said he'd tighten the Cuban embargo. "Let's be clear: I was never Justin's campaign manager," Alliegro says. "He never paid me a dime."

Alliegro and Sternad became chums. She says he got her a room at the hotel where he worked, the Wynd­ham Garden in South Beach, for two weeks until her new apartment was ready.

The feds began probing Sternad in the days leading up to the primary, after the Miami Herald published a story quoting John Borrero, owner of Hialeah-based Rapid Mail & Computer Services, saying he was paid $47,000 in cash-stuffed envelopes delivered in part by Alliegro. Sternad's campaign was fishy because of its sophisticated mailers and lack of fundraising. (Sternad's attorney, Rick Yabor, didn't reply to a message from New Times.)

Alliegro staunchly denies ever delivering money to Rapid Mail. "Borrero is lying," she says. "I'm crazy, but I am not stupid."

Either way, shortly after the Herald stories, the FBI seized Alliegro's computer and iPad. Two weeks later, Miami police knocked on her door and arrested her for driving with a suspended license. "How do I get arrested for a suspended license when I wasn't even behind the wheel?" Alliegro says. "It was scary."

When she was released, Alliegro found TV-news trucks parked in front of her home and her parents' house. Her mother, Agueda, says the intense scrutiny took a toll. "My daughter and this family have suffered too much," Agueda says. "She has done nothing wrong."

So Alliegro bought a plane ticket to Nicaragua "to get the heck out of Dodge," she says. A few days later, on September 5, the feds returned, taking her computer, her cell phone, and other items.

Alliegro says her criminal defense lawyer, Mauricio Padilla, initially told her that day that the FBI didn't need to interview her. Later that evening, though, she says Padilla called, telling her she would have to meet with the FBI the following morning.

Instead, she hopped on her 9 a.m. flight to Managua.

Three weeks after Alliegro's disappearance, Sternad pleaded guilty to accepting illegal campaign contributions, conspiracy, and making a false statement. He admitted that Rivera was secretly behind his campaign and accused Alliegro of acting as his conduit, the Herald reported.

Alliegro now claims the Herald articles are based on "lies." She admits she wanted to lay low, but denies she left Miami because of the FBI. "Call me a fool — I thought the media attention would go away."

Yet Alliegro didn't disappear from her family's radar — or from Rivera's. While in Nicaragua, she has been in contact with the ex-congressman, according to emails New Times obtained. Alliegro confirmed the contents of some of the emails, which also suggest Rivera visited her at least twice in Nicaragua. (Rivera did not respond to two voicemail messages and emails to his two Comcast addresses.)

On November 4 at 3:43 a.m., two days before he lost to Garcia, Rivera emailed Alliegro an Expedia itinerary for a weekend stay from November 9 to 11 at the Hotel Punta Teonoste in Rivas, Nicaragua. About an hour later, Alliegro replied, "That's next to Morgan's Rock, which would cost you $1,934 for a two-night stay, plus it looks better."

Then, on Christmas Day, Alliegro sent Rivera an email with the subject line "Thank you for making my life better I love you very much." She wrote, "Please forgive my Haze but you caught me totally off guard. I am terrified my mind will stay damaged... xo."

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