A former campaign manager for one-time Democratic Congressman Joe Garcia plans to plead guilty Thursday in Miami federal court to financing a tea party candidate in a scheme to siphon votes from his Republican nemesis. In April, Jeffrey Garcia was charged with a misdemeanor of conspiring to give a campaign contribution of less than $25,000 to the shadow candidate in the 2010 Miami congressional race. Prosecutors said Garcia, no relation to the former congressman, surreptitiously put up the $10,440 qualifying fee for Jose Rolando “Roly” Arrojo to pose as a GOP challenger to David Rivera in the general election. Arrojo was also charged with the same misdemeanor.
Both initially pleaded not guilty but now plan to change their pleas to guilty before U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez, according to a court filing. The misdemeanor offense carries up to one year in prison, but with their expected pleas, Garcia, 42, and Arrojo, 41, could receive less punishment, including probation, at a later hearing.
Rivera, who won the 2010 election, is suspected of following a similar playbook two years later to prop up a Democratic candidate against Joe Garcia, who beat the GOP incumbent in 2012. Rivera has not been charged, although two others in that case — the straw candidate and Rivera’s ex-girlfriend — were convicted and served short prison sentences.
Jeffrey Garcia, who served as Joe Garcia’s congressional chief of staff, already has a criminal record: He served 65 days in Miami-Dade County jail in 2013 after pleading guilty to state charges that he unlawfully submitted online absentee-ballot requests for unsuspecting voters in the 2012 congressional election. No ballots were sent out, so no votes were stolen.