WASHINGTON (AP) — A former Miami congressman who signed a $50 million consulting contract with Venezuela’s socialist government has been arrested in connection to an ongoing federal criminal investigation, law enforcement officials said.
David Rivera, a Republican who served from 2011 to 2013, was arrested Monday at Atlanta’s airport, said Marlene Rodriguez, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami. She said Rivera was indicted by a Miami grand jury last month, but that document remains sealed and she could not discuss the charges.
She said Rivera had an initial appearance Monday in Atlanta federal court. The U.S. Marshal’s Service said he bailed out of jail Monday afternoon.
An attorney for Rivera, Jeffrey Feldman, declined to comment, telling The Associated Press in a text message that he had “not seen the indictment.”
Pressure has been building on Rivera for more than two years after it emerged he received the massive contract from a U.S. affiliate of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company at the same time President Nicolas Maduro was trying to curry favor with the White House in the early days of the Trump administration
Rivera’s Interamerican Consulting was sued in 2020 by PDV USA — a Delaware-based affiliate of Venezuelan-owned Citgo — alleging the former congressman performed no work as part of the contract he signed in 2017 for three months of “strategic consulting” meant to build bridges with key U.S. stakeholders.
Rivera, 57, has maintained his innocence and has countersued PDV USA alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment for its failure to pay $30 million he says he is still owed.
Although Rivera’s contract was with a U.S. entity, any work he performed on behalf of Maduro’s government or Venezuelan business interests would’ve required him to register as a foreign lobbyist, which he did not.
Records that emerged as part of the lawsuit show that Rivera’s consulting work was done in concert with Raul Gorrin — a Venezuelan insider and media tycoon who has been sanctioned and indicted in the U.S. on money laundering charges.
Correspondence introduced in court as part of the lawsuit reference show Rivera and Gorrin attempted to coordinate a meeting between Venezuela’s foreign minister and executives from the U.S. oil company Exxon. As part of that charm offensive, they also roped in Rep. Pete Sessions, whose former Dallas district was home to Exxon.
Rivera and Gorrin also discussed the changing price of concert tickets that attorneys for PDV USA stated were coded references to a bribe.
Before being elected to Congress, Rivera was a high-ranking Florida legislator, serving from 2003 to 2010 in the House. During that time he shared a Tallahassee home with current U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who eventually became Florida House speaker.
Rivera has been embroiled in several election-related controversies since then, including orchestrating the stealth funding of an unknown Democratic candidate to take on his main rival in a South Florida congressional race and a state investigation into whether he hid a $1 million contract with a gambling company. That probe also involved possible misuse of campaign funds to pay for state House activities already reimbursed by the state.
Spencer reported from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Joshua Goodman And Terry Spencer, The Associated Press