Frank Artiles’ trial delayed again in ‘ghost candidate’ scandal

Former state lawmaker allegedly paid auto parts salesman to run for state Senate District 37.

The case of a former state Senator — a prime defendant in the so-called “ghost candidate” scandal — was delayed another 60 days Tuesday after the state attorney’s office asked for more time to gather the reports the defense is asking for, according to the Miami Herald’s Samantha Gross.

Frank Artiles, who served in the Florida Legislature as a Republican from 2010 to 2017, last representing Senate District 40, is facing five felony charges in a scheme to put up a fake candidate to siphon votes from the Democrat incumbent. He allegedly recruited and paid an acquaintance to run a bogus campaign in the 2020 Senate District 37 race — a ghost candidate.

His lawyers say that they have been trying to take sworn depositions from law enforcement officers involved in the case, but have not yet received “lead agent reports,” the Miami Herald is reporting.

Court documents show Artiles is due back in court Dec. 21.

Tim VanderGiesen, a public-corruption attorney in the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, attributed the delay to an avalanche of discovery documents and an ongoing investigation into other aspects of the ghost candidate scheme, the Miami newspaper said.

Artiles’ lawyer said he asked for the documents back in April and his inability to get them prevents the defense team from taking depositions.

“The defense does not control when the lead detective on a case prepares a report …” said Frank Quintero, Artiles’ lawyer, according to the Herald’s report from court. “Once we have it, we can proceed to take depositions. Without those reports, it would be a waste of time to take any deposition of any law enforcement officers.”

The trial was originally scheduled to begin Aug. 30, the Herald reports. A check-in hearing was scheduled for Tuesday after Artiles’ lawyers asked for more time on Aug. 19.

The candidate that Artiles allegedly paid $45,000 to run for Senate last year has already pled guilty to charges related to Artiles’ case and agreed to testify against him. Alexis Pedro Rodriguez, an auto parts salesman, admitted he falsified an election document, according to reports.

The fake candidate, who was really living in Boca Raton, and not in the Senate District that he appeared on the ballot for, received nearly 6,400 votes in the race. Those votes likely siphoned support from the incumbent in the district with the same last name, former Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, who lost by 34 votes to Sen. Ileana Garcia.

Discovery records released so far show that Miami investigators are looking beyond Artiles and Rodriguez to find the source of the money that fueled the scheme, the Herald reports.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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