Owner of business featured in Marco Rubio ad previously arrested for soliciting prostitute

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The president of Diego's Taqueria & Margaritas Bar pleaded no contest in 2001.

The president of a company featured prominently in an advertisement for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign has a criminal record.

Silvino Barragan, president of Diego’s Taqueria & Margaritas Bar, pleaded no contest in 2001 to a charge of soliciting or procuring a prostitute. After the Panama City man’s plea to the misdemeanor charge, adjudication on the case was withheld. Less than three months after a first appearance on June 28, 2001, Barragan paid $297 to the court.

Years later, Barragan in 2013 incorporated Diego’s. The business grew a local following within a few years, according to the Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce. The restaurant now has two locations in Panama City Beach.

As the restaurant business was pilloried by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the company was among many Florida businesses to apply for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program. A search through a ProPublica database of recipients shows the business received $256,080 that was forgiven in 2021.

Of note, state business records show Barragan also opened food truck Cheo’s Latin Kitchen shortly after the loan was pulled.

Rubio played a key role in crafting the Paycheck Protection Program, and he has touted the federal response as he seeks a third term in the Senate. He faces a challenge this year from U.S. Rep. Val Demings, an Orlando Congresswoman and the Democratic nominee for Senate.

His campaign dismissed attempts to tar individuals helped by the Paycheck Protection Program.

“Democrats will do anything to distract from Marco Rubio’s record of results since their candidate Val Demings has accomplished nothing in Washington,” said Elizabeth Gregory, a spokesperson for the Rubio campaign.

“The jobs of the three Florida women featured in this ad were saved because Rubio’s Paycheck Protection Program did just what it was designed to do: protect their paychecks, and any insinuation that wasn’t a worthy cause is dishonest and politically motivated.”

Demings’ team saw things differently, and suggested the poor vetting of the restaurant in the ad was the latest in a “series of campaign missteps.”

“Marco Rubio’s campaign is in complete disarray,” said Christian Slater, spokesperson for the Demings campaign. “He’s desperately attempting to save his flailing campaign with cheap political stunts, but Florida voters know he doesn’t show up for work, and hurts Florida when he does. This November, Florida will send a cop on the beat to the United States Senate and reject the career politician who refuses to do his job.”

Rubio’s efforts have included spotlighting positive business stories about companies that benefitted from the PPP program. The ad, “Diego’s,” was released this month and focuses exclusively on the recovery for the Panama City Beach restaurant.

The Rubio ad notably does not show Barragan. Rather, it features testimonials from waitresses working at Diego’s.

“If it weren’t for Senator Rubio, I might not even have a job,” says waitress Lauren in a testimonial.

“It was nice to know that we had someone like Senator Rubio looking out for us,” says waitress Leah.

The purpose of the PPP loans was to prevent layoffs at a time when many businesses could not stay open. In Florida, in-person dining was prohibited or extremely limited for much of the year in 2020 after the coronavirus first surfaced in the state thanks to a safer-at-home order issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

A message sent via Facebook to Barragan received no reply. When a call was placed to a phone number listed for Barragan, a man hung up when the caller identified himself as a Florida Politics reporter.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


20 comments

  • Tom

    September 20, 2022 at 2:45 pm

    21 years later.
    Bad choice, bad decision.
    He’s run a business and helped employ,
    Sen Rubio doing a great job getting his message out. Not sure the 21 yr old charge is necessary.
    Just like Crisp attacking minister yesterday,
    Sad.

    Reply

    • Charlie Crist

      September 20, 2022 at 3:17 pm

      Vote for me. I’ll make prostitution legal so everyone can get laid (even Tom) and we won’t have to worry about character assassination just because a dude wants to get laid on the spot.

      Reply

      • Avy115

        September 21, 2022 at 3:45 pm

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  • Ocean Joe

    September 20, 2022 at 3:15 pm

    Here’s another good defense: Donald Trump solicited one and paid her $130,000 to keep her mouth shut, so soliciting a prostitute must be A-OK in the Great Republican Book of Morals.

    Reply

    • Charlie Crist

      September 20, 2022 at 3:19 pm

      Prostitution is not immortal. Stupid religious people applied that standard here in the South. In Europe it’s legal and in certain places in some states it’s also legal.

      Reply

    • Tom

      September 20, 2022 at 3:59 pm

      Stormy wasn’t a prostitute ocean.
      Geez you scrape barrel now.
      He did pay her for consent under threat.

      Joey, no thanks I have great success, don’t need. You can spread Eagle for idiot Elliot and your incest team. Enjoy,

      Reply

      • Nikki Fried

        September 20, 2022 at 10:19 pm

        Whoever sleeps with you is either a mental case or just a loser…

        Reply

        • Tom

          September 21, 2022 at 6:09 am

          Spread Eagle you degenerate, alias incest Joey corsin. You suck idiot Elliots ass.
          LMAO.

          Reply

      • Viktor Vaughn

        September 21, 2022 at 1:28 am

        Stormy Daniels is a prostitute lol. What are you talking about, any job fulfilled where you sleep with someone for money is prostitution. Recorded, glamourized (by some) or fulfilled under a dark and cold bridge, it’s still prostitution. Donald would not have ever slept with a woman if he wasnt paying for it, I mean look and listen to the guy: he’s pure yuck rolled in fryer grease by the encrusted Cheeto cheese powdered hands of evil.

        Reply

  • Hope

    September 20, 2022 at 3:29 pm

    Yet the more recent troublesome issues regarding Hunter Biden such as drugs, prostitutes, payoffs, collusion with foreign countries, human trafficking, treason.. all found and verified on a laptop that the media refuses to acknowledge or report. Two words, red wave..

    Reply

    • Charlie Crist

      September 20, 2022 at 10:18 pm

      👆 Prostitute…

      Reply

    • It's Viktor

      September 21, 2022 at 1:38 am

      Everything you just listed regarding hunter biden is your daydream list of crimes that he COULD have possibly committed. However, you have zero proof of ANY of it, you’re just creating an alternate reality based on how you WANT the world to be, not how it actually is. That is the difference between a people with a conscience that those without. Those who accept facts and reality work to try to make things better, those who make up the narratives of today, work nefariously to justify lies.

      Reply

  • Buzz

    September 21, 2022 at 1:20 am

    Character assasination, real class here.

    Reply

    • Charlie Crist

      September 21, 2022 at 8:52 am

      The article itself is character assassination…

      Reply

  • Viktor Vaughn

    September 21, 2022 at 1:31 am

    Stormy Daniels is absolutely a prostitute lol. What are you talking about, any job fulfilled where you sleep with someone for money is prostitution. Recorded, glamourized (by some) or fulfilled under a dark and cold bridge, it’s still prostitution. Donald would not have ever slept with a woman if he wasnt paying for it, I mean look and listen to the guy: he’s pure yuck rolled in fryer grease by the encrusted Cheeto cheese powdered hands of evil.

    Reply

  • Tom

    September 21, 2022 at 6:05 am

    Chinese bots on the March, Joey corsin, viktor, charlie, just spouting stupidity.

    This was about the maligning by FP bout a persons decision 21 yrs ago. Dumings and Crist campaigns stoop to lowest level. L

    Reply

  • Phil Morton

    September 21, 2022 at 6:21 am

    Prostitution aside, the PPP loans were a disaster and Democrats are once again having to clean up a Republican mess. “In March, the DoJ said it had brought over 1,000 criminal cases involving losses of $1.1bn – and was involved in civil litigation alleging fraud in more than $6bn of loans.”

    Reply

    • Tom

      September 21, 2022 at 7:13 am

      Total fallacy Morton.
      PPP helped and saved economy.
      It has been demonstrated.
      Unfortunate abuse in any govt. program.

      Reply

      • Fat Cammack

        September 21, 2022 at 8:50 am

        You want bare assed face sit babydoll???🍩💋

        Reply

  • rust

    September 21, 2022 at 9:19 am

    Little Marco is a loser. Even a whore like Tramp called him out on National TV for his failure to show up for Senate votes. His only rejoinder was to call Tramp “big Donald.” Lame! He is fine to shoot off his big mouth, however. Scumbag Marco

    Reply

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