In the summer of 2011, the arrest of U.S. Rep. David Rivera seemed all but certain.
Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement had waded through piles of credit-card receipts and banking records, tracing thousands of dollars from Rivera’s political campaigns to his personal accounts. Miami-Dade prosecutors were preparing a “draft” complaint charging the Republican congressman with 52 counts of theft, money laundering and racketeering.
The lengthy probe of Rivera’s finances “unequivocally explains the theft and/or fraud of campaign funds,” FDLE inspector Brett Lycett wrote in a July 5, 2011, e-mail to a prosecutor. “We believe the violations are quite evident.”
But in the ensuing months — after Rivera’s lawyer poked holes in the case — the investigators’ confidence gave way to prosecutors’ increasing skepticism about the potential charges. The 52-count complaint accusing Rivera of systematic misspending of campaign funds was never filed; instead, prosecutors would write a 16-page memo explaining why they believed they could not arrest Rivera for anything.