Former Miami Republican congressman David Rivera was arrested on Monday in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation that possibly includes failing to register as a foreign agent in the U.S. for consulting with Venezuela’s socialist government-run oil company.
Rivera, who served one term in office from 2011 to 2013, has been allegedly under investigation after signing a $50 million consulting contract from a U.S. affiliate of Venezuela’s socialist government-run oil company under President Nicolas Maduro.
Marlene Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami, told The Associated Press that authorities arrested Rivera at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Monday. However, Rodriguez could not discuss the charges for Rivera due to a sealed indictment by a Miami grand jury last month, which included other defendants.
Rivera, 57, appeared in an Atlanta federal court following his arrest but bailed out of jail later in the afternoon, according to the U.S. Marshal’s Service reported by local media.
Jeffrey Feldman, an attorney for Rivera, declined to comment to The Associated Press, adding via text message that he had “not seen the indictment.”
PDV USA, a Delaware-based affiliate of Venezeluan-owned oil company Citgo, sued Rivera’s Interamerican Consulting company in 2020 on allegations the former congressman failed to hold up his end of the contract he signed three years before the lawsuit, which was reportedly said to improve the image of the Venezuelan firm in the United States.
Venezuela’s U.S. affiliate reportedly accused Rivera of doing little work after the businesses collected $20 million from a subsidiary.
“The written record is bereft of any evidence that Interamerican performed any of the contracted services,” PDV USA argues in the new filings, according to The Associated Press. “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.”
Court documents reported by The Miami Herald show that Rivera allegedly diverted at least $13 million of that money to three subcontractors in Miami who supposedly gave “international strategic consulting services” to the Venezuelan firm.
Such subcontractors allegedly included Miami real estate developer Hugo Perera, who authorities convicted in one of South Florida’s biggest drug-trafficking cases.
PDV USA is seeking to recover the $20 million in payments from Rivera’s company.
Rivera’s firm has filed a counterclaim seeking full payment of the contract.
Rivera also reportedly orchestrated an unknown Democratic candidate to run against his main rival in a South Florida congressional race, hid a $1 million contract with a gambling company, and misused campaign funds to pay for state House activities that the State had already refunded.
Before Rivera entered Congress, he served as a Florida legislator from 2003 to 2010 in the state House. He shared a home in Tallahassee with former Flordia House Speaker and current U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.