Former Fla. Dem candidate pleads guilty to campaign finance fraud, claims he was 'used'

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Sternad, who went head-to-head with Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.) in the Florida Democratic primary, was charged with one count of conspiracy to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), one count of making false statements to the FEC and one count of accepting illegal campaign contributions.. He took roughly $70,000 in illegal campaign donations, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The Miami Herald reported that Sternad said he was “taken advantage of and used by others” throughout the election scandal.

A political unknown, the Democrat reportedly faced fundraising challenges, but sent out sophisticated campaign flyers attacking Garcia and mentioning his opponent's divorce.

Former Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) and Ana Alliegro, the GOP operative running Sternad’s campaign, helped facilitate the five-figure checks in attempt to beat Garcia – a rival of Rivera, the Herald’s report continues.

Court documents show that Sternad reported to the FEC that he made $63,801 in loans to his campaign, DOJ said in a release, “when he knew that he had actually loaned fewer than $300."

The candidate’s personal financial disclosure forms reveal a modest salary and little assets.

Sternad told the court that his campaign accepted contributions above the legal limit and he filed campaign disclosure forms that “intentionally misled” the government’s campaign finance watchdog.

“During the campaign, illegal cash contributions from co-conspirators were used to pay for a rental car and the design, printing and distribution of campaign flyers,” according to the DOJ.

Sternad could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on each charge. His lawyer is trying to reduce those penalties, however, in exchange for the former candidate’s cooperation.

Sternad will return to the courthouse on May 21 for sentencing.