Federal prosecutors on Friday accused former Miami Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia’s ex-chief of staff of secretly financing a ringer tea-party candidate in 2010 to draw votes away from a Republican rival — an illegal scheme that appeared to inspire a more serious copycat case two years later. Jeffrey Garcia was charged with conspiracy to give a campaign contribution of less than $25,000, a misdemeanor offense. Prosecutors say Garcia, no relation to the former congressman, put up the $10,440 qualifying fee for the shadow candidate, Jose Rolando “Roly” Arrojo, to pose as another challenger to David Rivera. Arrojo was also charged Friday with the same misdemeanor.
Rivera is suspected of following a similar playbook in 2012 to prop up a Democratic candidate against Joe Garcia. Rivera has not been charged, although two others in that case — the straw candidate and Rivera’s ex-girlfriend — were convicted.
Jeffrey Garcia himself confessed his actions to prosecutors three years after the fact, his attorney said. The charge, filed in U.S. District Court, paves the way for Garcia, 42, to surrender to authorities next week and then plead guilty in the hope of receiving a light sentence. The same outcome is likely for Arrojo, 41.
Jeffrey Garcia 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.