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Florida Ex-Congressman Arrested Over Secret Contract With Venezuela

It is a source of never-ending amazement how people can put themselves into such convoluted situations and positions as this guy has done to himself. So far he’s just been charged, but whether found guilty or not the question is…what was he thinking??? Another case where he must have believed he was safe and somehow existed in a protected bubble of some sort, but why? The point being that there is no protective shell for any of us. There is only “The Law of Cause and Effect” and now David Rivera is facing the “effect” of his “cause” as we all must do.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/05/us/david-rivera-venezuela-arrest.html?smid=em-share

 

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WASHINGTON — 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 in Atlanta, 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 agent.

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 lawsuitbrought 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 Republicans.

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 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 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 court.

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.


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“I’ve read a number of books that focus on sharing a similar message, including “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, “The Answer” by John Assaraf & Murray Smith, “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield, “Think and Grow Rich,” by Napoleon Hill, and I must say that I find Rob’s to be my favorite. – Sheryl Woodhouse, founder of Livelihood Matters LLC

Florida Ex-Congressman Arrested Over Secret Contract With Venezuela

Florida Ex-Congressman Arrested Over Secret Contract With Venezuela

…And here is a genuine story about how even minimal effort to bring comfort to another human can result in outsized and wonderful results. How different the world might seem to many if that kind of true effort actually ran wild! It is a thought worth considering. It is also a siren call to each of us!

New research shows small gestures matter even more than we may think.

Colombo Family Crime Boss and 12 Others Are Arrested, Prosecutors Say

An indictment unsealed on Tuesday accuses the organization of orchestrating a two-decade scheme to extort a labor union.

Credit…Jesse Ward

 

For two decades, the leadership of the Colombo crime family extorted a Queens labor union, federal prosecutors said — an effort that continued unabated even as members of the mob clan cycled through prison, the family’s notorious longtime boss died, and as federal law enforcement closed in.

Over time, what began as a Colombo captain’s shakedown of a union leader, complete with expletive-laced threats of violence, expanded into a cottage industry, prosecutors said, as the Colombo organization assumed control of contracting and union business, with side operations in phony construction certificates, marijuana trafficking and loan-sharking.

On Tuesday, 11 reputed members and associates of the Colombo crime family, including the mob clan’s entire leadership, were charged in a labor racketeering case brought by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

All but two of the men were arrested Tuesday morning across New York and New Jersey, prosecutors said. Another was surrendered to the authorities on Tuesday; another defendant, identified as the family consigliere, remained at large, prosecutors said.

The indictment accuses the Colombo family of orchestrating a two-decade scheme to extort an unnamed labor union that represented construction workers, using threats of violence to secure payments and arrange contracts that would benefit the crime family.

The charges are an ambitious effort by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to take down one of the city’s five Mafia families. In addition to the union extortion scheme, which is the heart of the racketeering charge, the indictment charges several misdeeds often associated with the mob, including drug trafficking, money laundering, loan-sharking and falsifying federal labor safety paperwork.

Detention hearings for the defendants in Brooklyn federal court continued into the evening Tuesday, as they entered not-guilty pleas to the charges; prosecutors had asked the court to keep 10 of the defendants in custody.

“Everything we allege in this investigation proves history does indeed repeat itself,” Michael J. Driscoll, F.B.I. assistant director-in-charge, said in a statement. “The underbelly of the crime families in New York City is alive and well.”

Around 2001, prosecutors said, Vincent Ricciardo — a reported captain in the family, also known as “Vinny Unions” — began to demand a portion of a senior labor union official’s salary. When Mr. Ricciardo was convicted and imprisoned on federal racketeering charges in the mid-2000s, prosecutors said, his cousin continued to collect those payments.

Starting in late 2019, prosecutors said, the senior leadership of the Colombo family became directly involved in the shakedown, which extended to broader efforts to siphon money from the union: for example, manipulating the selection of union health fund vendors to contract with entities connected to the family, and diverting more than $10,000 each month from the fund to the family.

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Andrew Russo, 87, who prosecutors describe as the family boss, is accused of taking part in those efforts, as well as a money-laundering scheme to send the proceeds of the union extortion through intermediaries to Colombo associates. He was among nine defendants charged with racketeering.

Mr. Russo appeared in court virtually from the hospital Tuesday; he is set to be detained upon his release, pending a future bail hearing.

The family’s infamous longtime boss, Carmine J. Persico, died in federal custody in North Carolina in March 2019.

Federal law enforcement learned of the extortion scheme about a year ago, prosecutors wrote in a court filing Tuesday; investigators gathered thousands of hours of wiretapped calls and conversations recorded by a confidential witness, wrote the prosecutors, who also described law-enforcement surveillance of meetings among the accused conspirators.

The authorities said they repeatedly captured Mr. Ricciardo and his associates threatening to kill the union official. “I’ll put him in the ground right in front of his wife and kids,” Mr. Ricciardo was recorded saying in June.

On another occasion cited by prosecutors in the memo seeking his detention, Mr. Ricciardo directed the union official to hire a consultant selected by the Colombo family, saying: “It’s my union and that’s it.” Prosecutors said his activities were overseen by a Colombo soldier and the consigliere who remains at large.

Much of the activity outlined in the indictment took place while the defendants were either in prison or on supervised release for prior federal mob-related convictions. Theodore Persico Jr., described as a family captain and soldier, was released from federal prison in 2020 and, despite a directive not to associate with members of organized crime, “directed much of the labor racketeering scheme,” prosecutors said.

Mr. Persico, 58, is set to inherit the role of boss after Mr. Russo, prosecutors wrote.

Several of the defendants were named in what prosecutors described as a fraudulent safety training scheme, in which they falsified state and federal paperwork that is required for construction workers to show they have completed safety training courses.

One of the defendants, John Ragano — whom prosecutors say is a soldier in the Bonanno crime family — is accused of setting up phony occupational safety training schools in New York, which prosecutors said were “mills” that provided fraudulent safety training certificates to hundreds of people.

In October 2020, prosecutors said, an undercover law enforcement officer visited one of the schools in Ozone Park, Queens, and received, from Mr. Ricciardo’s cousin, a blank test form and an answer sheet; weeks later, the agent returned to pick up his federal safety card and paid $500.

The purported schools were also used for meetings with members of La Cosa Nostra — the group of crime families commonly known as the Mafia — and to store illegal drugs and fireworks, according to the indictment.

Mr. Ragano wasn’t charged on the racketeering count, although prosecutors also sought his detention pending trial. In addition to the racketeering count, several defendants, including Mr. Ricciardo and his cousin, were charged with extortion, conspiracy, fraud and conspiracy to make false statements.

William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.

Correction: 

An earlier version of this article misstated the number of people identified in an indictment as members of the Colombo crime family. It is 11, not more than a dozen.