It looks like the Florida Attorney General found a blatant and serious case of election fraud and the charges are very serious. First up we have a former Florida Republican State Senator, Frank Artiles. He appears to be the mastermind behind the scheme. He was arrested on Thursday, booked and released on $5,000 bond. Local 10 News reports that he is accused of "masterminding and funding a sham candidate to manipulate voters last November" and he is facing charges related to "felony campaign finance crimes."
His house was raided on Wednesday, which set up a flurry of theories about what exactly happened. His alleged co-conspirator, Alex Rodriguez, was booked on Thursday morning as well.
They both face the following charges:
- Making or receiving campaign contributions over or in excess of limits
- Conspiracy to make or receive two or more campaign contributions over or in excess of limits
- False swearing in connection with voting or elections
Local 10 News obtained the warrant, which provided more information regarding the investigation. It alledges that A"rtiles offered to pay Rodriguez $50,000 — half during the election and half afterward — for Rodriguez to enter November’s District 37 state senate race, where he shared a last name with the incumbent Democrat candidate Jose Javier Rodriguez." The goal was for the shill candidate, Alex Rodriguez, to siphon off enough votes to allow the Republican candidate to win. And it work - Ileana Garcia won by just 32 votes.
The shill candidate didn't even campaign or do anything to show that he was serious, which is a huge smoking gun. Oh, and he also lives 2 counties away and was reportedly up to his eyeballs in debt.
Alex Rodriguez's lawyer put out a statement blaming Artiles for everything:
“Frank Artiles and his co-conspirators knew they couldn’t beat Jose Javier Rodriguez in a fair election so they rigged it. Artiles cynically targeted and used a vulnerable ‘friend’ with a great name to run in the race in order to confuse voters and steal the election. 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 whole investigation was actually started after Local 10 News did a deep dive into the election itself after discovering that there were many plants in various Florida State Senate races which were funded by dark money, exactly like the scam run by Artiles.
Alex Rodriguez told investigators that Artiles reached out to him on May 15, 2020 on Facebook. They had known each other for almost 20 years, but had not spoken for a year before contact was initiated in May of 2020. Rodriguez alledges that Artiles "outlined the scheme for Rodriguez to enter the race to confuse voters and pull votes away from the Democratic candidate." Investigators also have text messages between the two men.
The warrant also explains various instances of money changing hands, with Artiles paying Rodriguez large sums of money. To be clear - plotting and encouraging a sham candidate to run as a spoiler in a close election is not illegal. What is illegal is FINANCING it.
So where exactly did Artiles get that $45,000 that he paid Rodriguez? Investigators do not know - yet. How many other elections were financed? Let's see what they can find in this county.