A former Florida Republican state senator was charged with a scheme to run a fake candidate to siphon votes from a Democrat in a race the GOP narrowly won, The Associated Press reports.
Former Miami area lawmaker Frank Artiles was charged with paying $44,000 to a fake candidate named Alex Rodriguez, who shares a last name with then-Democratic incumbent Jose Javier Rodriguez.
The fake candidate did not campaign but appeared on the ballot as an independent.
Republican Ileana Garcia, who has not been implicated in the scheme, ultimately won the race by just 32 votes.
“It violates everything that should be honest and straightforward about our elections,” said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “Where it goes from here, we don't know. We have not completed this investigation.”
Rodriguez also charged:
Alex Rodriguez was also charged with violating election law.
His attorney told the AP that Rodriguez was roped into the scheme by Artiles and is cooperating with investigators.
“Alex Rodriguez deeply regrets allowing himself to be used in this way and hopes that by coming forth with the truth he can help to right these wrongs,” the attorney said.
Police detail scheme:
A police affidavit described how Artiles hatched a scheme in which “Rodriguez would run as an independent with the same last name as the incumbent candidate (Jose Javier Rodriguez) in an attempt to confuse voters and siphon votes from the incumbent.”
Rodriguez, who faced financial trouble, repeatedly asked Artiles for money. At one point Artiles agreed to give him $10,900 to ostensibly buy a used Range Rover.
“It should be noted that the Range Rover did not actually exist. It was a fiction created by Rodriguez to get more of the money that he felt he was owed,” the affidavit said.
Artiles previously resigned from the Senate in 2017 after using racial slurs at a bar. It was later reported that he used political donations to hire a former Playboy model as a consultant.