Is the long arm of Johnny Law about to pull the classic yawn-and-then-drape-around-the-shoulders-move on South Florida's shadiest ex-congressman? Maybe. This much is clear: Justin Lamar Sternad, the mysterious candidate who ran against former Rep. David Rivera's opponent in last year's Democratic primary, is set to be charged in federal court today over campaign finance violations.
Rivera's opponent, eventual winner Joe Garcia, has claimed Sternad was funded and organized by Rivera through his longtime friend, GOP operative Ana Alliegro.
If Rivera was in fact behind Sternad's efforts to sink Garcia's campaign in the primary, it was a typically clumsy bit of skullduggery from a guy who's been accused of everything from running a truck carrying attack flyers off a highway to accepting thousands from a casino he was fighting for in the legislature.
The feds certainly seem to have a strong case against Sternad. A Miami Beach hotel employee and political newcomer with little fundraising and a personal history of financial troubles, Sternad somehow ran a professional campaign with highly targeted, well-produced attack ads against Garcia.
When the Miami Herald began digging into how he afforded the campaign materials, two campaign vendors told the paper they were often paid in cash, in amounts much larger than appeared on his campaign reports.
Confronted by federal elections officials, Sternad turned in blank forms to the FEC and then pleaded the Fifth. Even fishier, Alliegro -- a longtime Rivera friend who called herself a "GOP bad girl" -- disappeared before the feds could talk to her. She's believed to be hiding abroad, the Herald reports.
Other sources tell the paper that Alliegro called Rivera "the Gangster" but never let Sternad meet the congressman.
Sternad, whose attorney didn't return calls from the Herald, is expected to plead not guilty today. And the feds' indictment apparently doesn't mention Rivera by name.
That's despite the fact Sternad himself supposedly fingered Rivera as the man behind his campaign, at least according to the Herald's sources.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Miami New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Miami's stories with no paywalls.