Facing FBI scrutiny, former Democratic candidate files amended campaign finance report

August 26, 2012

Miami Herald on August 24, 2012 released the following:

“An ex-Democratic candidate whose cam- paign may have had links to Rep. David Rivera filed documents saying he loaned himself $64,000.

BY MARC CAPUTO AND MANNY GARCIA

A failed Democratic congressional candidate whose campaign is under federal grand jury investigation abruptly amended his financial disclosures to show he loaned himself nearly $53,000 more than he originally reported.

Before filing the new report, Justin Lamar Sternad, 35, insisted his finances were in order and steadfastly refused to say how he paid for tens of thousands of dollars worth of campaign-mail services.

Many of the transactions were in cash — sometimes in the form of $100 bills stuffed in envelopes, a campaign vendor said.

The big cash payments drew the attention of the FBI, which began examining the working-class hotel employee, a political unknown who now claims to have dropped about $64,000 of his own money in his Aug. 14 primary loss.

Campaign vendors told The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald that Sternad’s congressional Democratic primary run was backed by Republican Rep. David Rivera, who says he has never met or helped Sternad. During the campaign, Sternad bashed Rivera’s main rival, Joe Garcia. Garcia handily won and faces Rivera in November.

Rivera and Sternad have denied working in concert. Rivera has publicly attacked Sternad’s campaign vendors who spoke about his role, calling them liars or Herald lackeys. Sternad has blamed them for his reporting problems.

“I did not previously report this loan because I was unaware of the final monetary obligation incurred by my campaign,” Sternad wrote to the Federal Election Commission, which posted his letter Thursday. “I have now received invoices for the expenditures … and this amendment represents satisfaction of those invoices.”

The filing of an amended report doesn’t mean that law enforcement is done examining his case, say legal experts. They say it’s unlawful to knowingly and willfully file a false federal campaign report — even if it’s amended later.

John Borrero, president of Rapid Mail & Computer Services in Hialeah, told El Nuevo Herald last week that Sternad’s campaign paid about $43,000 in cash for mailings.

Some payments were allegedly made by Ana Alliegro, Sternad’s campaign consultant, totaling at least $7,000, in crisp hundred dollar bills, stuffed in envelopes, several sources familiar with the criminal probe said.

Alliegro, according to the sources, also went to Rapid Mail after the initial Herald story, published on Aug. 16, demanding all records linked to Sternad, ordering employees to throw out everything and finally telling Borrero and his staff “I hope you have a lot of clients.”

Alliegro told The Herald Thursday night that she never paid cash, and that she went to Rapid Mail solely to collect the invoices and documents associated with the Lamar mailings, so he could file his amended financial disclosure.

Borrero said he turned everything over — to law enforcement.

As a result, investigators have ramped up the probe, interviewed witnesses and subpoenaed campaign records. A federal grand jury is now involved.

Kenneth Gross, a Washington-based campaign-finance expert not connected to the case, amending a report may help him “mitigate” criminal exposure. “But it depends on the gravity of the case, the amount involved and the intent,” he said. “Was the report amended of the candidate’s own volition, or were there other pressures at play?”

It’s unclear how Sternad afforded the $64,000 in loans he gave himself.

His financial disclosures show he earned about $30,000 last year from working at local hotels.

Sternad noted he had a trust fund, but reported no income from it this year or the previous year. He reported having a one-third interest in the fund, whose value ranges between $50,000 and $100,000.

Under campaign finance disclosure rules, candidates do not have to provide an exact amount of assets — only a range of value. But they are required to disclose loans in the reporting period in which the money was used. Sternad failed to comply.

Sternad has also had financial troubles in the past. He declared bankruptcy in 1997 and more recently Capital One Bank won a default judgment against Sternad’s wife for $1,746.48 on Jan. 11, records show. There is no record that the judgment has been satisfied.

Sternad’s explanation about needing invoices before he could report his loans and expenditures conflicts with what Borrero, the owner of Rapid Mail and Computer Service, told The Herald.

Borrero said he was paid for all the work, mostly in cash, before the mailings were sent. The amended report notes that the payments totaled $46,973.10. So some, if not all, of the loan should probably have been reported at the time.

Sternad seemed to blame Borrero for the problem, noting in an unusual statement tucked in his amended report that “Vendor refused to provide invoices until 8/17/12. Invoice provided dated 8/8/12. Vendor did not provide detailed postage information.”

The only expense not paid by cash to Rapid Mail came from Expert Printing. Sternad’s latest report shows Expert Printing billed him for a $6,000 expense. That expense was not listed in his previous report.

An owner of Expert Printing declined comment.

Sternad’s latest report and accounting irregularities sharply contrast with the image he portrayed as a fiscal hawk during a May interview with CBS-4’s Elliot Rodriguez.

“I do auditing,” Sternad bragged in talking about his hotel management job, “And I want to get in there [Congress] and cut out some of the fat, some of the pork.”

Questions about Sternad’s finances and ties to Rivera were first raised by Garcia’s campaign in early August after one mailer attacked the Democrat over his divorce. The Garcia campaign noted that Rapid Mail had done more than $100,000 worth of business with Rivera in 2010.

Another firm, Campaign Data, also performed work for Rivera in 2010. Owner Hugh Cochran said Rivera helped the Democrats targeted by Sternad in his sophisticated 11-piece mail campaign.

Rivera has responded to the charges by questioning the honesty of Cochran and Borrero, who say they’re telling the truth.

In his final pre-primary report, Sternad showed he had only $120.97 in the bank. His reports showed no payments to Rapid Mail, Campaign Data or Expert printing. Sternad was repeatedly asked how he could afford the mailers with no money in his campaign, but he refused to answer.

“Kiss my ‘lily-white’ ass,” he said in an Election Day email.

He has since refused comment.

Ironically, Rivera — a Republican lawmaker who’s implicated in the unreported cash-for-mailers scheme — is defending Sternad, a Democratic political newcomer.

Even though the congressman said he doesn’t know Sternad or have any connection to his campaign, Rivera was the first to obtain the new campaign-finance reports for Sternad.

An FEC spokeswoman said Thursday that the FEC’s mailroom had received the reports Tuesday, however they weren’t made public until Thursday. Until that point, they weren’t public record.

Rivera, who will not address specific questions from The Herald, refused to explain Thursday on Spanish-language Radio Mambi how he got the reports. Also, Rivera suggested that Sternad could afford the personal expenses because he has a trust fund.

Rivera accused The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald of working in league with Garcia.

“What I know is that nothing that is written in the Miami Herald can be believed,” Rivera said Friday morning on Radio Mambi, dismissing a suggestion by one of the hosts, Oscar Haza, that the Herald story was accurate.

Haza, who also hosts Spanish-language América Tevé’s (Channel 41) A Mano Limpia, interviewed Miami-based Reuters reporter David Adams on his program Wednesday night. Adams said he spoke to the campaign vendors quoted in the Herald and that they told him the same information.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


John Edwards’ lawyers: $1M used to hide mistress wasn’t campaign contribution; FEC agreed

May 14, 2012

The Washington Post on May 14, 2012 released the following:

“By Associated Press,

GREENSBORO, N.C. — After weeks of testimony about John Edwards’ illicit affair and the money used to cover it up, his defense attorneys opened their case Monday by digging into the details of federal campaign finance law.

Edwards has pleaded not guilty to six criminal counts related to campaign finance violations. He is accused of masterminding a scheme to use nearly $1 million in secret payments from two wealthy donors to help hide his pregnant mistress as he sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

Defense attorneys are attacking the foundation of the prosecution’s argument that the money should be considered an illegal campaign contribution intended to influence the outcome of an election.

But even the federal government was split on that, the defense argues: The Federal Election Commission previously decided that the money was not a campaign contribution. In court Monday, a prosecutor from the Department of Justice called that decision irrelevant to their criminal case and argued against the jury being able to hear about it.

The first witness called by the defense was Lora Haggard, who was in charge of campaign finance compliance for Edwards. In 2008, she was chief financial officer of the John Edwards for President committee.

She testified that the money from heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and campaign finance chairman Fred Baron has still never been reported on the campaign’s required disclosure reports, because even after Edwards was charged FEC auditors said it didn’t need to be.

She also said Edwards was never involved in formulating, filling out or filing campaign finance reports that were sent to the FEC. In the sixth count of his indictment, Edwards is accused of causing his campaign to file a false report through deceit.

“We never gave him a report to review,” Haggard said. “He had no input.”

The defense had intended to call former FEC chairman Scott Thomas as their first witness Monday morning, but prosecutors objected to his potential expert testimony on the FEC’s decision about the money. U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Eagles scheduled a hearing for later in the day over whether to limit Thomas’ testimony.

The defense opened its case Monday after the judge refused to dismiss the charges on Friday after 14 days of prosecution testimony.

Prosecutors rested their case Thursday by playing a tape of a 2008 national television interview in which the Democrat repeatedly lied about his extramarital affair and denied fathering his mistress’ baby. Earlier testimony from a parade of former aides and advisers also showed an unappealing side of Edwards, casting him as a liar and lousy husband.

The defense has not yet indicted whether Edwards or his mistress, Rielle Hunter, will take the stand.

Before winning a U.S. Senate seat in 1998, Edwards made a fortune as a personal injury lawyer renowned for his ability to sway jurors. But his testimony would expose himself to a likely withering cross-examination about his many past lies and personal failings.

Edwards pollster and friend Harrison Hickman took the witness stand shortly before the lunch recess Monday. Ex-Edwards defense lawyer Wade Smith may also be called Monday afternoon.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Federal Prosecutors won’t call Rielle Hunter to testify at John Edwards’ Federal Criminal Trial

May 10, 2012

Boston Herald on May 10, 2012 released the following:

“Prosecutors won’t call Rielle Hunter to testify at John Edwards trial

By Anne Blythe and Martha Quillin / McClatchy Newspapers

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Prosecutors trying John Edwards have called a full cast of witnesses over the past three weeks to talk about $400 haircuts, fancy houses, posh estates, the whirlwind details in a presidential run, back-biting, betrayal and an extramarital affair that sent a one-time political star plummeting to the depths of a criminal trial.

On Wednesday, the day before prosecutors plan to wrap up their evidence, the one witness from the Federal Elections Commission, Patricia Young, an administrator in the Public Disclosure Division, was on the witness stand for not much more than 30 minutes. But prosecutors won’t be calling the woman who set the whole, sordid matter into motion — Edwards’ former mistress, Rielle Hunter.

Prosecutors told Judge Catherine Eagles late Wednesday that they still were on schedule to wrap up their side of the case on Thursday, and Hunter, the woman with whom Edwards had an extramarital affair and a child, was not one of the witnesses they intend to call.

Legal experts said prosecutors apparently will skip Hunter because she didn’t have direct knowledge of the money involved in hiding her and they can’t be certain of what she might say on the stand.

The Edwards case could test the sweep of campaign finance law.

When the government rests, the stage will be set for the first key ruling in the trial. Defense lawyers will likely ask Eagles, who will by then have heard the best evidence against Edwards, to dismiss the case in whole or in part. It is a standard maneuver in a criminal trial, but it may have a greater chance in this case in which the applicability of the law is also at issue.

Defense lawyers have argued that the campaign laws Edwards allegedly broke don’t apply to funds spent for personal reasons, such as the hiding of a mistress. Jurors will be asked to decide not only whether the expenses provided by two wealthy supporters should have been classified as campaign expenses, but whether there was any criminal intent by Edwards in not reporting that on public disclosure forms.

Prosecutors plan to call several federal agents on Thursday, but their case could go to a jury which will have to rule on the intent of key actors in a case that weighs heavily on intent without hearing from two, and possibly three, of the people at the center of the charges.

Prosecutors called the lawyer, librarian, farm manager and grandson of Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, the Virginia philanthropist who issued $725,000 in checks to help Edwards. But Mellon, just thee months shy of her 102nd birthday, was not called to testify.

Fred Baron, the wealthy Texas lawyer, who, prosecutors contend, provided several hundred thousand more dollars toward the effort to hide a pregnant Hunter from the media, died in October 2008. No one other than Edwards’ former aide and his wife, Andrew and Cheri Young, who deposited more than two-thirds of the money in their private bank account, have offered any testimony about Baron’s intent.

And Edwards, a trial lawyer who had much success with juries when he was in the courtroom, might or might not take the stand in his defense.

As prosecutors push toward the close of their case the defense team has offered themes of its own in their cross-examination of witnesses.

They contend that that most of the money prosecutors contend was coverup money say was used to hide Edwards’ pregnant mistress from the public to keep his campaign alive went to Andrew and Cheri the Youngs, key witnesses for the prosecution.

They continue to attack the character and motives of Andrew Young, making the trial as much Edwards versus Young as the government versus Edwards.

And Wednesday, they continued to push with their theory that Young was working closely with the FBI to ensure that an indictment was issued against Edwards. The defense contends he was in close contact with agent Charles Stuber, or “Chuck” as they’ve begun to call him.

The trial so far has offered political theater, psychological drama and wrought emotion from some of the witnesses.

Also on Wednesday, Jennifer Palmieri, a former Edwards’ campaign spokeswoman and friend of Elizabeth Edwards, became emotional while describing her relationship with the former Democratic presidential hopeful’s cancer-stricken wife and her last days.

“She was not able to speak at this stage,” said Palmieri, who now works for the Obama administration.

Shortly before she died, Elizabeth Edwards told Palmieri that she did not want to die alone, that when the time came, “there would not be a man around to love her.”

Palmieri said she would be there and was. So was John Edwards.

As Palmieri testified, Edwards, rubbed his eyes and pressed his forehead against his hand.

Palmieri was under cross-examination by defense lawyer Abbe Lowell after testifying for prosecutors about a rancorous October 2007 Iowa hotel meeting in which Elizabeth Edwards was angry at Baron and his wife Lisa Blue.

The Texas couple had taken Hunter on a shopping trip in California and Elizabeth Edwards was livid that they were continuing to stay in touch with Hunter. keep up with a woman with whom her husband had an extramarital affair. Edwards had told his wife a while back the affair was over and Elizabeth Edwards could not fathom why Baron and Blue were still in communication with her.

“Lisa kept saying, ’You’ve got to hold your friends close and your enemies even closer,’” Palmieri testified.

Palmieri, who has been involved with politics her entire career, offered testimony that played to contentions by prosecutors that Edwards built his campaign on a family-man image and that news of an affair could damage his chances. Therefore, the government argues, efforts to shield his family-man image were in fact campaign expenses.

Palmieri remembered the first National Enquirer story that mentioned the possibility of Edwards being involved in an extramarital affair.

It was months before the publication broke the news about Hunter being pregnant.

Palmieri talked about the efforts to keep the affair story from “jumping to the mainstream media.”

As she tried to help tamp down the story of the affair, Palmieri turned to Edwards and said: “If it’s true, don’t think you’re going to survive this.”

When pushed by prosecutor David Harbach about why she told Edwards that, Palmieri said: “A big part of his appeal was his family and his relationship with Elizabeth.”

Palmieri took the stand after speechwriter Wendy Button finished her testimony.

Button testified on Tuesday that Edwards told her in 2009 that he was aware all along that Baron had provided support to Hunter.

But on cross-examination, defense lawyer Abbe Lowell pointed out that Edwards had not specifically elaborated on what that meant.

Edwards and Button at the time were talking about Quinn, the daughter he had with Hunter. He was upset and very emotional, Button said, that he had lied on an ABC interview nearly 11 months earlier that he was not the father.

Button was helping him prepare a statement that would acknowledge his lie and perhaps clear up other lingering issues.

That statement went through at least 13 renditions, was vetted by lawyers and others, and eventually was not delivered.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Feds: John Edwards campaign finance experts ‘irrelevant’

November 30, 2011
John Edwards

Politico on November 30, 2011 released the following:

Posted by Josh Gerstein

“Federal prosecutors are asking a judge to reject an effort by former Sen. John Edwards’s defense team to call two former Federal Election Commission members as expert witnesses on campaign finance law at his upcoming criminal trial.

Edwards’s defense wants to call Scott Thomas and Robert Lenhard to testify about the complexities of federal campaign finance regulations and about their implications for the prosecution Edwards is facing for allegedly accepting illegal, off-the-books donations to his 2008 presidential campaign by participating in a scheme to direct about $925,000 in reimbursements from two of his wealthy supporters to his mistress and a child she and Edwards had.

Both Thomas and Lenhard will testify, according to summaries prepared by the defense, that if Edwards had asked them whether such gifts consituted campaign donations under federal election law, they “would have given the opinion that [the payments] did not fall within the scope of those laws.”

In a motion seeking to keep both men off the witness stand, prosecutors call the testimony “utterly irrelevant” and improper under federal legal precedent.

“It is a fundamental precept that expert testimony on the meaning and applicability of relevant law is inadmissible. This is because each trial court already has its own legal expert: the judge,” prosecutors wrote in their motion filed Monday. “What Mr. Thomas or Mr. Lenhard would have said in 2007 and 2008 simply has no bearing whatsoever on what Edwards thought or knew at the time.”

A defense spokesman had no comment on the motion to exclude Thomas and Lenhard from the trial, but a written response from the defense team is expected next week.

Ordinarily, expert witnesses are not permitted to opine on legal points, since the trial judge resolves legal questions. However, Edwards’s case arguably presents a more complicated question about whether he should have or could have known in 2007 and 2008 that the alleged scheme to support his mistress would be considered a campaign contribution.

The defense also wants the two men to testify about a 2002 FEC opinion issued to Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and holding that a $25,000 loan he accepted from a drug company lobbyist. “Testimony from retained experts about legislative history is of little to no use, even to the Court, much less a jury,” prosecutors wrote.

Judge Catherine Eagles previously rejected a defense motion to dismiss the case based on its failure to state a clear violation of federal law. However, that leaves open the possibility that the facts the prosecution presents at trial might not withstand a similar motion at or after the trial.

Eagles has set a Dec. 16 hearing to take up motions in the case, including a new defense motion seeking more information on the prosecution’s theory of the case.”

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Judge sets January trial date for John Edwards

November 17, 2011

Politico on November 16, 2011 released the following:

“The criminal trial of former Senator, Democratic presidential candidate, and Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards of North Carolina will get underway at the end of January, a federal judge ordered Tuesday.

U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles, who sits in Greensboro, set Jan. 30 for the beginning of jury seleciton in the case, with the first evidence in the case to be presented two weeks later on Feb. 13.

Edwards is charged with violating campaign finance law during his 2008 presidential bid by conspiring to use about $900,000 in funds from two political supporters to cover the living expenses of his mistress and a child he fathered with her. Edwards, who pled not guilty, is also accused of causing false reports to be filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Edwards’s lawyers have argued that the case is unprecedented and is based on a radical interpretation of campaign finance law that the former senator could not have foreseen. However, last month, Eagles refused defense motions seeking to throw out the charges.”

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.