Miami Lawyer Asking FBI To Investigate Possible Phantom Candidate in 2010 Congressional Race

The just-resigned chief of staff for Congressman Joe Garcia is facing an allegation that he ran such a candidate, but the congressman says the issue has already been investigated and dismissed

By Steve Litz
|  Tuesday, Jun 4, 2013  |  Updated 11:36 PM EDT
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Jeff Garcia, freshly resigned as Congressman Joe Garcia’s chief of staff, is now facing an allegation by political rivals that he ran a phantom candidate against his boss's opponent. Lawyer Rick Yabor and Miami Beach City Commissioner Jonah Wolfson spoke about the issue. The candidate, Roly Arrojo, declined an interview. Congressman Garcia addressed the matter in a statement.

Jeff Garcia, freshly resigned as Congressman Joe Garcia’s chief of staff, is now facing an allegation by political rivals that he ran a phantom candidate against his boss's opponent. Lawyer Rick Yabor and Miami Beach City Commissioner Jonah Wolfson spoke about the issue. The candidate, Roly Arrojo, declined an interview. Congressman Garcia addressed the matter in a statement.

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Jeff Garcia, freshly resigned as Congressman Joe Garcia’s chief of staff, is now facing an allegation by political rivals that he ran a phantom candidate against his boss's opponent.

The candidate, Roly Arrojo, was on the Republican primary ballot in 2010.

Miami lawyer Rick Yabor is asking the FBI to investigate in light of Garcia's resignation.

"A lot of red flags are up," Yabor said. "Red flags indicate that this person may have been what's called a phantom candidate where one of the parties put him up to run to take votes from another party."

Yabor is familiar with phantom candidates because his client, Justin Sternad, has admitted to being one.

He ran in the 2012 Democratic primary, forcing frontrunner Joe Garcia to expend resources in that race, leaving fewer dollars for his general election matchup against Republican Congressman David Rivera.

According to The Miami Herald, Sternad's campaign was supported by Rivera, who has denied any wrongdoing.

Some Republican activists are convinced Arrojo did the exact same thing, propped up by the Democrats.

Arrojo's initial 2010 Republican primary campaign documents show him as a member of the Tea Party.

About three months later, in his statement of candidacy, Arrojo listed his party affiliation as a Democrat.

Last week Jeff Garcia resigned amid allegations he illegally requested dozens of absentee ballots. The congressman has said that his former staffer took full responsibility for the plot.

Records show Jeff Garcia, not related to Congressman Joe Garcia, has close ties, was a business partner, and owned property with Arrojo.

Miami Beach City Commissioner Jonah Wolfson, a self-described diehard Democrat, admits that his own party looked for phantom candidates to run, with the intention of siphoning off votes from mainstream Republican candidates.

"Joe, in that campaign, without a doubt was looking for a Tea Party candidate in 2010,” Wolfson said.

At his Coral Gables home Arrojo declined an interview, but did say he doesn't know Joe Garcia. He wouldn't comment on his political party affiliation.

"This issue has already been investigated by the FEC. Even Yabor's letter to the FBI states this issue has been investigated and dismissed,” Congressman Garcia said in a statement. “Asking the FBI to open an investigation is a poor attempt to deflect attention from his client’s involvement in an open FBI case.”

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