Exclusive: Miami New Times Finds David Rivera's Missing Pal Ana Alliegro
|Justin Lemar Sternad claims Alliegro was a buffer between his campaign and Rivera.|
The campaign was fishy because of Sternad's sophisticated mailers, lack of apparent fundraising, and refusal to attack Rivera. The lily-white candidate, the Herald suggested, was a Trojan horse funded by Rivera to smear Garcia.
But Alliegro tells a very different story of her involvement with Sternad. At that first meeting at Miller's Ale House, she says she told the green candidate to run for a less ambitious post, like a seat on the Palmetto Bay Town Council.
"He insisted on running for Congress," she says. "I never enticed or induced him, much less handled any money." She did offer to help the newbie candidate because he said he'd tighten the Cuban embargo. But Alliegro says that she never directed Sternad's run for office.
"Let's be clear: I was never Justin's campaign manager," Alliegro says. "He never paid me a dime."
In the months before the primary, Alliegro and Sternad became chums. "I even stayed with Justin for a couple of weeks when my new apartment wasn't ready," Alliegro asserts. "He is a nice guy. I hope his life turns out well."
Alliegro also denies ever delivering money to Borrero or anyone else at Rapid Mail on behalf of Rivera. "Borrero is lying," she says. "I'm crazy, but I am not stupid."
(Sternad's attorney Rick Yabor declined to respond to Alliegro's version of events.)
On August 26 the feds and Miami Police showed up at her doorstep. While agents searched her home, the cops arrested her on an outstanding warrant from Osceola County. She had failed to pay a ticket and her license had been suspended. "How do I get arrested for a suspended license when I wasn't even behind the wheel?" Alliegro says. "Then I got lost in the jail system for 16 hours. It was scary."
When she was released from jail, Alliegro says she had to deal with TV news trucks parked in front of her home and her parents' house. "All I wanted to do was get the heck out of dodge," she says. "I wanted the media to leave my family in peace."
Her mother, Agueda, tells New Times the intense media scrutiny has taken a toll on her health. "My daughter and this family have suffered too much," Agueda says. "She has done nothing wrong."
Alliegro says she had already bought her plane ticket to Nicaragua days before the FBI came by her residence a second time on September 5, taking her computer, her cellphone, and other items. Her criminal defense lawyer, Mauricio Padilla, told her the FBI didn't need her statement because they had gotten everything they were looking for, Alliegro and her mom claim. (Padilla declined comment.)
The same day, she met with Rivera, according to the Herald. Later that evening, shortly after 10:30 p.m., Alliegro says Padilla called, now telling her she had to meet with the FBI and assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas J. Mulvihill the following morning.
Instead, she hopped on her morning flight to Managua, Nicaragua's capital.
Three weeks after her disappearance, Sternad allegedly admitted to the feds that Rivera was secretly behind his run for office. He allegedly accused Alliegro of acting as the conduit between the campaign and Rivera. According to the Herald's account of Sternad's testimony, Alliegro referred to Rivera as "D.R." and "The Gangster."
Alliegro claims all the Herald articles written about her are based on "lies." She admits she wanted to lay low, but denies she left Miami because of the FBI. "Call me a fool, I thought the media attention would go away," she says. "That's not what's happened."
Yet Alliegro didn't disappear from her family's radar - or from Rivera's. The whole time she's been in Nicaragua, Alliegro has been in contact with her father and Rivera, according to emails New Times obtained from a source who helped us track her down.
Alliegro confirmed the contents of some of the emails, which suggest that Rivera went to visit her at least twice in Nicaragua. (He did not respond to two voicemails on his cellphone and emails to his two Comcast addresses requesting comment for this story.)
|Rivera booked a two-night stay for two adults in a one-bedroom bungalow at the Hotel Punta Teonoste Resort|
About an hour later, Alliegro replied, "That's next to Morgan's Rock which would cost you $1,934 for a two-night stay plus it looks better."
Then on Christmas Day, Alliegro emailed Rivera with the subject line: "Thank you for making my life better I love you very much." She writes, "please forgive my Haze but you caught me totally off guard. I am terrified my mind will stay damaged ... xo."
(Alliegro tells New Times that she fell off a horse while riding near Granada and has suffered memory loss since then.)
Rivera replies, "landed safe and sound. I will start doing research to find medicinal remedies and other therapies for your memory loss. I've often heard fish can be helpful to regain memory lost from head injuries such as yours. Love you very much too."
A couple of minutes later, Alliegro responds, "thank you Santa Pete I will call u after the Dr. Enjoy your Christmas with the family I love you. I will miss you :-(."
Later that evening, Alliegro responds to an email from her dad, who was trying to convince her to come back to Miami. "I like it here away from the jerks," she writes. "I have a great life and I am not in bad emotional state. Quite the opposite. I am very proud of my accomplishment."
Alliegro informs her dad that she had opened her own beauty salon, waking up at six in the morning to work 16 hours a day. "I will be back when I have made my fortune and healed from the damage the liberals have delivered upon me," she proclaims, before signing off. "Ciao."
During the first ten days of January, Alliegro fires off several emails to Rivera complaining about her third-world start-up problems. "Someone kicked in the door today," she grumbles in one missive. "The bathroom faucet will not turn off. I am videotaping it now. Love you, Davie."
About two weeks later, things were looking up for Alliegro. According to a January 22 email sent to Rivera with the subject line, "Bb we broke the bank today :-) made $125 with 5 customers," she tells him two Americans, a Candian, a Nicaraguan, and an Australian came in for haircuts and massages. "I waxed two Peace Corps. girls pro bono," she writes. "They were broke and young. Luv u muah!"
In an ecstatic reply the following morning, Rivera gushes: "I freakin' love it! Everytime I see these pictures I almost want to cry. I'm so very proud of you. You actually know what the hell you are doing. I pray every day that this venture works and your expansion vision comes to fruition. Very exciting. Love you too."
When asked about the emails, Alliegro confirms she emailed Rivera but tells New Times that her memory is still hazy from that fall from a horse. "You have no idea the dare devil stunts I've pulled down here," she says. "I messed myself up bad."
She denies that Rivera ever visited her in Nicaragua. She remembers sending him emails, but she doesn't recall him ever responding.
Alliegro acknowledges life in Nicaragua is hard. "I started a business with the little money I have," she says. "I have been struggling to make it work."
In a couple of weeks, she adds, Salon La Libertad will be moving into a cheaper locale on Calle Guzman about a half-a-block away where she is now. She says business has slowed down since news reports by America Teve and Diario Las Americas revealed she had gone to Nicaragua.
"It was working fine until the media started up again," Alliegro attests. "Letting people know what my father did is only adding fuel to the fire."
Regardless, she soon has to return to Miami in order to renew her American passport. When she does, she says she won't dodge the FBI.
"I haven't abandoned my country," Alliegro says. "I feel my country has abandoned me. But if I have to testify, I will. Make no mistake about it -- I will not take the Fifth. I will answer whatever questions they ask me."
Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness.
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