Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Federal authorities on Monday arrested former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, accusing him of secretly working for a Venezuelan state-run oil company to pitch the prospects of an improved relationship between the United States and Venezuela.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of Florida said Rivera, a Cuban American who is well known in Florida political circles, was arrested in the Atlanta area. He served in the House from 2011 to 2013 after a long career in the Florida state legislature.
A federal indictment said the oil company hired Rivera for $50 million to lobby members of Congress and the Trump administration from 2017 to 2018 on behalf of Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro. The indictment said Rivera never registered as a foreign agent as required by law.
Federal agents said he made the pitches with his longtime associate Esther Nuhfer. They now face charges of conspiring against the United States, 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," the indictment said.
Rivera is the longtime friend and former housemate of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., but Rubio is not involved I n the case.
The American subsidiary of the oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, sued Rivera in 2020 over the contract, charging he did little meaningful work in fulfilling it. Rivera countersued last year, claiming a breach of contract.