Former Republican Florida Rep. David Rivera was arrested Monday on federal criminal charges of money laundering and representing a foreign government without registering.
Rivera, who represented a Miami-area district in Congress from 2011 to 2013, had signed a $50 million consulting agreement with a state-owned Venezuelan oil company in the early days of the Trump administration as the socialist country sought to normalize relations between the U.S. and Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro.
Rivera was arrested at an Atlanta airport and had bailed himself out of jail by Monday afternoon after an appearance in federal court, according to the Associated Press.
According to an eight-count indictment against Rivera and his former political consultant, Esther Nuhfer, the former congressman was involved in a conspiracy to lobby on behalf of Venezuela to improve its standing with the US, resolve legal dispute involving a Venezuelan oil company, and end U.S. sanctions against the socialist country while not registering as a foreign agent.
“It was the purpose of the conspiracy for the defendants to unlawfully enrich themselves by engaging in political activities in the United States on behalf of the government of Venezuela, and by representing the interests of the government of Venezuela before officials of the of the United States government and in an effort to influence United States foreign policy,” the 34-page indictment against Rivera and Nuhfer states.
Rivera’s lobbying firm, Interamerican Consulting, was sued in 2020 by PDV USA, a Delaware-based affiliate of Citgo, a Venezuelan-owned oil company, over claims that the former lawmaker didn’t fulfill his obligations of the multimillion dollar contract he signed in 2017 for three months of “strategic consulting” work.
The indictment alleges that Rivera set up meetings in Washington, New York, and elsewhere with senators, congressmen, and White House officials to lobby on behalf of the Maduro regime.
None of the lawmakers or officials he may have met with were named in the indictment.
“Over time, Rivera, Nuhfer, Foreign Individual 1 and Individual 1 used their portions of these funds to pay for various personal and business expenses, such as the purchase of real estate, payment of expenses for luxury yachts, and, in Rivera’s case, contributions to his campaign for state office [in 2018],” the indictment alleges.
Rivera has previously been under federal investigation for an alleged scheme to secretly fund an Democratic opponent to take on a congressional rival in South Florida and for his alleged involvement in a secret consulting contract with a Miami casino.