Washington – A former Miami lawmaker who signed a $50 million consulting contract with the Venezuelan government has been arrested in connection with a federal criminal investigation, authorities said Monday.
David Rivera, a Republican who served in Congress from 2011 to 2013, was arrested Monday at the Atlanta airport, said Marlene Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the US attorney’s office in Miami. She added that a grand jury indicted Rivera last month, but that document remains sealed and she could not dispute the charges.
He noted that Rivera had a preliminary appearance Monday in federal court in Atlanta. The Federal Marshals Service announced that hours later he was released from jail after posting bail.RELATED
Jeffrey Feldman, Rivera’s attorney, declined to comment, telling The Associated Press in a text message that he “had not seen the indictment.”
The pressure had been mounting on Rivera for more than two years after it emerged that he had received a huge contract from the US affiliate of the Venezuelan state oil company at the same time that President Nicolás Maduro was trying to ingratiate himself with the White House in the early days of the Donald Trump administration.
Rivera’s company, Interamerican Consulting, was sued in 2020 by PDV USA, a local affiliate of Venezuelan-owned Citgo. The complaint claimed that the former legislator did not carry out any work as part of the contract he signed in 2017 for three months of “strategic advice” in order to establish ties with important US shareholders.
Rivera, 57, has claimed he is innocent and filed a countersuit against PDV USA, accusing the company of breach of contract and unjust enrichment for not paying him the $30 million he claims he is still owed.
Although Rivera’s contract was with a US entity, any work done on behalf of the Maduro government or Venezuelan business interests would have required him to register as a foreign lobbyist, which he did not do.
The files that emerged as part of the lawsuit show that Rivera carried out his advisory work in concert with Raúl Gorrín, a Venezuelan businessman who has been the target of sanctions and faces indictments in the United States on money laundering charges.
Correspondence filed with the court as part of the lawsuit shows that Rivera and Gorrín tried to arrange a meeting between the Venezuelan foreign minister and executives from the US oil company Exxon. As part of those efforts, they also implicated Rep. Pete Sessions, whose former Dallas district was home to Exxon.
Rivera and Gorrín also discussed changing concert ticket prices, which PDV USA lawyers say were coded references to a bribe.
Before being elected to Congress, Rivera was a high-ranking lawmaker in Florida, where he served in the House from 2003 to 2010. During that time, he shared a Tallahassee residence with current U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, who eventually married became the speaker of the state House of Representatives.
Since then, Rivera has been embroiled in several election-related controversies, including orchestrating a scheme to quietly fund an unknown Democratic candidate to run against his main rival in a South Florida race, as well as a state investigation. about whether he concealed a million-dollar contract with a gambling company. That investigation also involved a possible misuse of campaign funds to pay for state house activities that had already been reimbursed by the state.