Former Florida Rep. David Rivera, who had avoided a series of investigations during his political and consulting career, was arrested Monday by federal authorities in connection with a probe into his work with Venezuela’s authoritarian regime, reports Politico. Rivera, who represented a Miami-area district from 2011 to 2013, was detained in Georgia on Wednesday in connection with a Miami grand jury indictment last month. According to the indictment unsealed on Monday, Rivera and his former political consultant, Esther Nuhfer, are facing charges of conspiring against the U.S., failing to register as foreign agents, and engaging in illegal financial transactions including money laundering. “It was the purpose of the conspiracy for the defendants to unlawfully enrich themselves by engaging in political activities in the United States on behalf of the government of Venezuela, and by representing the interests of the government of Venezuela before officials of the of the United States government and in an effort to influence United States foreign policy,” says the indictment. Rivera had been previously criticized for failing to register as a foreign agent despite working for Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., Venezuela’s state-owned oil company.
In 2017, Rivera and Nuhfer were sought out to help lobby politicians on behalf of Venezuela and gain political support to normalize relations between the U.S. and the country led by strongman Nicolas Maduro. Meetings were arranged with a U.S. congressman from Texas as well as a U.S. senator from Florida to discuss a possible deal with the Maduro regime where he would accept a deal to “hold free and fair elections in Venezuela.” Reports have identified the congressman as former Rep. Pete Sessions. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) a known ally to Rivera, played a pivotal role in advising the Trump administration over dealings with Latin American countries. Rivera exchanged texts with the unnamed senator, who met with President Trump and said the U.S. should “facilitate, not just support, a negotiated solution” as well as “no vengeance, reconciliation.” The indictment says Maduro ultimately refused to promise open elections.