- Associated Press - Monday, March 10, 2014

MIAMI (AP) - An associate of former U.S. Rep. David Rivera pleaded not guilty Monday to four campaign finance violations involving tens of thousands of dollars in alleged illegal contributions to a previously unknown candidate.

Ana Alliegro’s attorney Mauricio Padilla entered the plea on her behalf at a brief hearing. Padilla also said Alliegro, 44, would not seek immediate release on bail, which is opposed by prosecutors who claim she is a flight risk. Alliegro was arrested in Nicaragua last week and extradited to the U.S. on Friday.

Padilla said she has been held in solitary confinement since arriving in Miami, awaiting medical clearance to join the main jail population. She appeared in court in shackles and chains.

“She’s not in good shape. My heart goes out to her,” he said.

An indictment charges that Alliegro illegally funneled more than $80,000 to the 2012 primary campaign of Democrat Justin Lamar Sternad, a political novice who pleaded guilty last year to federal campaign violations. The investigation centers on allegations that Rivera, a Republican, was using Sternad as a shadow candidate to weaken his Democratic rival and eventual winner for the 26th District U.S. House seat, current Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia.

Rivera, a former state lawmaker who served only a single term in the House, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and did not immediately return a call Monday seeking comment. Rivera has not been charged in the case.

Alliegro faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines if convicted on each of the four charges, which include conspiracy to make false statements and evade Federal Election Commission contribution limits. Sternad has been cooperating extensively with prosecutors since his guilty plea and is now scheduled for sentencing April 25. He faces a maximum 15-year prison term.

According to the indictment, Alliegro initially gave Sternad $500 in cash in May 2012, then provided a series of additional payments for a qualifying fee, a rental car, printed flyers and direct mail servces. Sternad, a father of five who earned less than $30,000 a year working at a Miami Beach hotel, claimed on FEC forms that he was loaning his campaign the money but later admitted it came from Alliegro.


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