Florida Politics reports:
Seminole County Republican Party Chair Ben Paris [photo], political consultant Eric Foglesong and former independent candidate Jestine Iannotti have been arrested and charged with multiple counts of election fraud related to the 2020 election in Senate District 9.
Iannotti had run in the SD 9 election as an independent candidate in a contest that critics had alleged was a “ghost candidate” maneuver intended to draw votes away from Democratic candidate Patricia Sigman, to aid the election of Republican Jason Brodeur, who won.
Twelve total charges came down through indictments sought by the State Attorney for Florida’s 18th Judicial Circuit after a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) investigation. The investigation began in July 2021 after JC 18 State Attorney Phil Archer requested FDLE look into the election.
The Orlando Sentinel reports:
Jestine Iannotti, one of three “ghost” candidates who ran as independents for Florida Senate seats in 2020, has been arrested on several criminal charges, alongside a political consultant involved in launching her campaign and Seminole County’s Republican Party chairman.
Iannotti faces six charges including the commission of a false or fraudulent act, accepting excessive contributions from a single contributor, perjury, false reporting and accepting a contribution in the name of another.
Foglesong, a longtime Central Florida political operative, faces five counts: making two or more contributions through or in the name of another, the commission of a false or fraudulent act, unlawful use of a communication device, excessive contributions and false reporting.
From Politico‘s October 2021 report:
The stock image of a Black woman was sent as part of a mail piece in the big-money race for state Senate District 9 between former Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur and Democratic attorney Patricia Sigman, who are running for the Seminole County-based seat left vacant by term-limited Republican Sen. David Simmons.
The mailer purports to back candidate Jestine Iannotti, who is white according to her Facebook page, and is not affiliated with a party.
The mailer features a smiling Black woman on the phone, and says “Jestine Iannotti will always be there for us.” A basic search for stock photos results in the exact same picture that appears on the mailer. The picture used on the mail piece is titled “smiling African American woman talking on the phone.”
This is all separate from the OTHER Republican ghost candidate case still in progress in Miami.
Among those arrested today in the “ghost” candidate scandal: @seminolegop chair Ben Paris. He also since 2019 has worked for @jasonbrodeur — who won the 2020 race in which Iannotti allegedly played spoiler — at the @seminolechamber.https://t.co/MLuWBbhYu0
— Jeff Weiner (@JeffWeinerOS) May 24, 2022
One of the people charged in this election scheme is Seminole County GOP Chair Ben Paris.
That’s in addition to former Republican legislator Frank Artiles who ran the same playbook in Miami (and stole an election).
— Abel Iraola (@miamiabel) May 24, 2022
FINALLY charges/arrests in fake candidate scheme have been made:
Jestine Iannotti: Fake SD9 candidate
Eric Foglesong: Skeezy Political Consultant
Ben Paris: Works at Seminole County Chamber/GOP purse holder
Those who funded this gross operation need to be held accountable too!
— Rep. Anna V. Eskamani 🔨 (@AnnaForFlorida) May 24, 2022