Ex-Candidate Accused of Campaign Finance Violations Surrenders | NBC 6 South Florida

Ex-Candidate Accused of Campaign Finance Violations Surrenders

Justin Sternad, 35, surrendered to Miami agents Friday morning and appeared in court later in the day



    (Published Friday, Feb. 22, 2013)

    A failed South Florida congressional candidate linked to former U.S. Rep. David Rivera was charged Friday with violating federal campaign finance laws by concealing the true source of thousands of dollars, accepting illegal contributions and trying to cover up the scheme with false campaign filings.

    Justin Sternad, 35, surrendered to Miami agents Friday morning and appeared in court later in the day. Sternad, previously a political unknown, was a candidate in the Democratic primary for Florida's 26th congressional district that stretches from the Miami suburbs to Key West.

    Federal prosecutors charged Sternad with conspiracy to violate federal campaign laws, making false statements and accepting illegal contributions. If convicted, Sternad faces up to five years in prison on each of the three counts.

    "We are committed to promoting transparency and accountability from our elected officials and from those running for office," said U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer. "Our citizens deserve no less."

    Witness is a No Show in Congressional Race Probe

    [MI] Witness is a No Show in Congressional Race Probe
    The family of a witness who failed to appear for an interview with the FBI is worried about the woman s whereabouts, The Miami Herald reported. Ana Alliegro, a campaign manager for former Democratic congressional candidate Justin Lamar Sternad, was expected to be interviewed by authorities who are investigating the congressional race between Sternad and Republican Rep. David Rivera but failed to show, according to the newspaper. Her mother told The Herald she was very worried.
    (Published Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012)

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    At the brief court appearance, Sternad's attorney Rick Yabor entered a not guilty plea for his client, who did not speak. Sternad is being released on $100,000 bail under an agreement with prosecutors.

    The type of document used to charge Sternad, called an "information," typically indicates in federal court that a defendant is cooperating with authorities and plans eventually to plead guilty. But Yabor would not confirm that, saying only, "Time will tell."

    Witness is a No Show in Congressional Race Probe

    The FBI began investigating Sternad after The Miami Herald published stories last year that he had received money from the campaign of Rivera, a Republican, to use in the Democratic primary against eventual winner Joe Garcia. Garcia went on to win the primary and defeat Rivera, a former state legislator who was in his first U.S. House term.

    Sternad received 11 percent of the vote in the primary despite being a political novice. Much of the cash involved went for campaign mailings targeting Garcia.

    Rivera has denied any link to Sternad but is also under federal investigation for potential tax violations. Rivera's name does not appear in charging documents filed by federal prosecutors. Rivera did not immediately return a call to his cell phone Friday.

    Joe Garcia, David Rivera Wind Down Campaign by Talking Up Voters

    [MI] Joe Garcia, David Rivera Wind Down Campaign by Talking Up Voters
    Garcia said Congress engages in too much partisan rhetoric instead of solving problems. "And hopefully we can turn the page in this election and start working together as a country like we always have," the Democratic challenger said. Republican Congressman David Rivera said voters are focused on his message of creating jobs, improving the economy, and bringing fiscal responsibility back to Washington. "I think the voters realize that those are the challenges facing our nation, and they want to make sure that we reject the failed economic policies of the past," he said.
    (Published Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012)

    The court papers say Sternad accepted thousands of dollars in contributions from others but claimed on Federal Election Commission forms that they were loans from his own personal accounts. In the FEC documents, prosecutors said Sternad claimed he made loans of nearly $64,000 to his congressional campaign when in reality the total was less than $300.

    Sternad initially did not list the contributions on FEC forms at all, then filed amended forms in August claiming they were loans. Yet on his initial congressional financial disclosure statements, Sternad listed income through July of last year of $14,490 from a job as a night auditor at a Miami Beach hotel. The year before, he said he earned $29,821 from two hotel jobs.

    Video Report: Witness is a No Show in Campaign Finance Inquiry