Dec 5, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Ex-GOP Rep. Rivera arrested on conspiracy charges in Venezuela consulting probe

Photo of David Rivera holding a phone to his ear as he walks down a hallway

David Rivera, then representing Florida in Congress, leaves a House Republican Conference meeting on Aug. 1, 2012. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

Former Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) was arrested Monday on charges of conspiracy to commit offense against the U.S. — including failing to register as a foreign agent for Venezuela — as part of an ongoing federal criminal investigation.

Driving the news: Rivera, who served from 2011 to 2013 and later signed a $50 million consulting contract with a Venezuelan state-run oil company, was indicted by a federal grand jury in November, according to Marlene Rodriguez, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami.

Details: Rivera is accused of engaging in political activities in the U.S. on behalf of the Venezuelan government in a bid to "unlawfully enrich" himself.

  • He allegedly represented the Venezuelan government's interests before U.S. government officials "in an effort to influence United States foreign policy toward Venezuela," according to the indictment.
  • The former Florida state legislator also allegedly attempted to "conceal these efforts by failing to register under FARA [the Foreign Agents Registration Act] as agents of the Government of Venezuela and by creating the false appearance that they were providing consulting service."
  • FARA requires any person acting in the U.S. as "an agent of a foreign principal" to register with the attorney general when participating in certain activities like lobbying.
  • Lawyers for Rivera did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Worth noting: Rivera's contract with the state-owned oil company PDV USA ended after he was accused of performing no work in a lawsuit filed by Venezuela's U.S. subsidiary.

  • His business collected $20 million by from PDV USA, the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald report, but had transferred $13 million of that income to three subcontractors, one of whom was Hugo Perera, a Miami real estate developer convicted in a drug-trafficking case.
  • PDV USA is alleging breach-of-contract and seeking to recover the $20 million paid to Rivera, who denies any wrongdoing and filed a counterclaim for full payment of the contract.

The big picture: This isn't the first or only controversy involving the Cuban American politician.

  • Rivera was previously investigated for possible misuse of campaign funds and was at one point accused of orchestrating stealth funding in a bid to take out his main rival in a congressional race, per AP.

What's next: Rivera made his initial court appearance before a federal magistrate judge on Monday in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was arrested. He is expected to face charges in Miami.

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