‘Ghost’ candidate, 2 agents charged as part of a candidate plan

A former independent Senate candidate and the leader of the Seminole County Republican Party are among three people arrested in connection with Shill’s candidate program in central Florida.

The pattern is similar to that seen in two South Florida Senate elections, where so-called “shill candidates” were placed on the ballot to confuse voters.

Jestine Iannotti, who was the non-partisan candidate in the District 9 state senate race in November 2020, now faces multiple indictments along with two political activists.

Iannotti faces six counts, including two counts of perjury and two counts related to accepting campaign funds. She was the third-party candidate running in the 2020 election against current state senator Jason Brodeur and Democrat Patricia Sigman.

Brodeur won the race with 7,644 votes. Iannotti received 5,787 votes.

Political strategist James Foglesong surrendered himself to the Seminole County jail Tuesday morning and now faces five charges, including campaign finance violations. Ben Paris, chairman of the Seminole County Republican Party, faces an indictment for contributing to an election by or on behalf of someone else.

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Tuesday’s arrests are the result of an investigation the Florida Department of Law Enforcement opened in July 2021.

The District 9 race was financially tied to the State Senate races for Districts 37 and 39 here in South Florida.

In the District 37 race, Alex Rodriguez was the nonpartisan candidate on the ballot for the race between Republican Ileana Garcia and incumbent Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez. Garcia would win the race after a hand count by just 34 votes. Alex Rodriguez received more than 6,000 votes.

Local 10’s investigations into the non-party candidates were traced to black money donors and led to an investigation by the Miami-Dade district attorney’s office.

That investigation ended with Alex Rodriguez and former State Senator Frank Artiles being indicted for their roles in the system.

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It is alleged that Artiles offered to pay Rodriguez $50,000 to run as a non-partisan candidate. Rodriguez will now testify against Artiles and accepted a plea deal.

Artiles has denied any wrongdoing. Miami-Dade prosecutors said there was no evidence Senator Garcia was involved or had knowledge of the shill being planted in the race.

The Miami Herald first linked Artiles to the scheme after sources revealed to them that he attended the campaign party for now-Senator Brodeur in central Florida on election night 2020 and the District 37 race in South Florida.

Copyright 2022 by WPLG Local10.com – All rights reserved.

https://www.local10.com/news/local/2022/05/24/ghost-candidate-2-operatives-face-charges-in-shill-candidate-scheme/ ‘Ghost’ candidate, 2 agents charged as part of a candidate plan

Sarah Y. Kim

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