‘Ghost Candidate' Will Testify Against Former Senator in Election Case: Attorney

Prosecutors accuse Frank Artiles of recruiting and paying Alex Rodriguez to run as a No-Party-Affiliate in Senate District 37 last November.

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The Florida man accused of running as a third-party candidate to siphon votes away from the Democrat in a close state senate race will testify against the man prosecutors say recruited him for the job.

Alex Rodriguez will take a plea next Tuesday and be a cooperating witness in the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office case against former Republican state senator Frank Artiles.

“Alex Rodriguez remains profoundly remorseful for his actions and considers his decision to enter into a plea agreement as a necessary and proper act of contrition,” Rodriguez’s attorney William Barzee wrote to NBC 6 in a text message.

The two are accused of keeping tens of thousands of dollars off state financial records and lying on sworn residency paperwork, felonies under Florida law with up to a five year jail sentence each. Prosecutors accuse Artiles of recruiting and paying Rodriguez around $45,000 to run as a No-Party-Affiliate in Senate District 37 last November.

Rodriguez shares the same last name as former state senator Jose Javier Rodriguez. Alex Rodriguez received more than 6,000 votes. Republican Ileana Garcia defeated Jose Javier Rodriguez by 32 votes.

When state attorney Kathy Fernandez Rundle laid out the original charges she said Garcia was not involved.

The trial was set for August 30th, but has been delayed by 60 days in light of the plea deal. The trial could be delayed even more per a request from prosecutors or the defense.

Rodriguez and Artiles had been friends for years. Both originally pleaded not guilty.

Barzee announced to Judge Andrea Ricker Wolfson Thursday Rodriguez would take a plea and be a cooperating witness. Artiles’s attorney Frank Quintero, asked the court for more time to take deposition of Rodriguez and review evidence.

“Finally the State realized that it must remove Rodriguez from the case and allow him to be deposed as a State witness. Otherwise, they risk having the Artiles case dismissed for having a State witness inside the defense camp,” Quintero wrote in a statement to NBC 6, “It was the smart and the correct thing to do. Now we can begin the defense of Mr. Artiles. We are looking forward to deposing Mr. Rodriguez.”

After the election, prosecutors began investigating Artiles and Rodriguez. Two other senate races had “ghost” candidates in the 2020 cycle, one in Central Florida and another in South Florida.

Investigators revealed in court documents they believe Artiles paid Rodriguez $45,000 to change his party affiliation and run to siphon votes away from the democratic candidate.

Court records show Artiles also included his brother-in-law and had connections to powerful political operatives with ties to state Republican leadership. Artiles had an exclusive contract to work south Florida elections with powerful political operative Pat Bainter.  

Bainter’s company, Data Targeting Inc., does millions of dollars in work for the campaign arm of senate Republicans led by senate president Wilton Simpson according to state finance records. Bainter cooperated in handing over documents to investigators according to emails released by prosecutors. Simpson said at the time of their arrests he was not involved in the scheme but has not commented on new revelations for months. Bainter and Simpson have not been accused of any wrongdoing by prosecutors.

Artiles's trial date as of now is October 19.

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