Reporting Jim DeFede
MIAMI (CBS4) – After weeks of denying he did not take so much as a penny from a business operated by his mother, Congressman-elect David Rivera now admits receiving $137,000 from the company.
The latest revelations come as the Miami Dade State Attorney’s office continues its probe of the Miami politician.
As CBS4 News first reported, more than half a million dollars in secret payments were made by the owners of Flagler Dog Track to the company operated by Rivera’s 70-year-old mother, Daisy Magarino Rivera, and his godmother, Ileana Medina.
The bulk of the payments to Millennium Marketing were made in 2008 after Rivera successfully helped lead a countywide referendum to allow slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities such as Flagler.
“We are certainly cooperating with authorities in doing anything we can to resolve this,” Flagler CEO Barbara Havenick told CBS4 News in December.
Flagler’s attorney, Roberto Martinez, said the organization did nothing wrong and that the contract they entered into for Rivera’s services was perfectly legal. He also said it was Rivera’s idea to have the money for his services go to Millennium; the firm created by his godmother and which lists Rivera’s mother as its vice president, secretary and treasurer.
In the past six weeks, investigators have issued “dozens” of subpoenas for banking and other records relating to Rivera and the gambling issue, according to sources.
Last month, Rivera repeatedly denied he personally received any of the money paid to Millennium.
“Mr. Rivera has not been contacted about any investigation, nor do we believe there are any grounds for an investigation,” Rivera Spokeswoman Sarah Bascom said in a statement. “We will not be commenting on any alleged investigation.”
But this week, in an interview with the Associated Press, Rivera admitted he did receive $137,000 from Millennium. He said the money was given to him as a loan and that he recently repaid it.
Rivera, however, is refusing to provide copies of any of the loan documents, including the promissory note he claims to have signed. He also would not provide proof that the alleged loan was repaid.
In his interview with the Associated Press, Rivera argued the loan from Millennium had nothing to do with the $500,000 Millennium received from the dog track. He argued the loan pre-dated the dog track agreement.
But a review of state records shows that Millennium Marketing was created only a few weeks before the dog track made its first payment to the company in November 2006.
If Rivera claims the money from Millennium did not come from the dog track agreement, then where did the money come from? Sources said the only money Millennium received were payments from Flagler Dog track and a contract to do consulting work for one of Rivera’s state house campaigns.
Rivera never listed the loan, which dated back to 2006, on any of his previous financial disclosure forms. He claims he was not required to do so because the type of loan he received was exempt from disclosure.
Rivera’s spokeswoman, Sarah Bascom, said Rivera was releasing the information now “in order to dispel any speculation surrounding his personal finances.”
But rather than put the issue to rest, Rivera’s latest statements only raise new questions. And sources familiar with the investigation say prosecutors are expanding their probe of Rivera, examining all of his financial dealings as a state legislator.
Rivera is scheduled to be sworn in to the 112th Congress on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.