Miami-Dade candidate charged with 21 counts of campaign finance violations
Image via Miami-Dade County Corrections.

Lacayo mugshot copy
She faces 8 felony and 13 misdemeanor counts.

Former Sweetwater Commissioner Sophia Lacayo is in deep legal trouble.

She faces 21 criminal charges for a variety of campaign finance violations she allegedly committed during a failed bid for the Miami-Dade County Commission last year.

The charges include eight third-degree felony counts and 13 first-degree misdemeanors for falsifying campaign donation information, including making donations in someone else’s name, and receiving multiple over-the-limit contributions.

Each felony charge carries up to a five-year prison sentence, while each misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year behind bars, according to state statutes.

State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle’s Office shared details of the charges Thursday in its weekly newsletter, just over a month after police booked Lacayo, 45, at Miami-Dade’s Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center. Her bond was set at $14,500. The charges were first revealed during a press conference in July.

Fernandez Rundle said she believes Lacayo took “deliberate steps” to evade state and county campaign finance laws, including “running funds through several different bank accounts in order to obscure the source of the funds.”

“We believe such actions are clearly illegal and cannot be tolerated if we hope to have honest, fair and transparent elections,” she said in a statement.

Lacayo’s arrest followed a probe by the State Attorney’s Public Corruption Unit, which investigates cases of potential bribery, official misconduct, unlawful compensation, money laundering, racketeering, fraud and excessive force by police.

A real estate investor, Spanish-language talk radio host and owner of a tax-preparation business, Lacayo raised eyebrows last year when she amassed nearly $1.8 million toward her bid for the Miami-Dade Commission’s District 12 seat.

She reported nearly all of that sum as coming from her bank account or businesses she owns.

The race’s winner, former Doral Mayor Juan Carlos “J.C.” Bermudez, raised just under $1.2 million through his campaign account and political committee.

Lacayo’s current legal woes aren’t her first brush with the law for malfeasance. In September 2020, she was forced to resign from the Sweetwater Commission after pleading guilty to perjury for falsely claiming she lived in the city during her campaign.

There were also questions last year about whether Lacayo leveraged federal Paycheck Protection Program loans to fund her County Commission campaign. Numerous companies registered under her name gave maximum contributions to her Miami-Dade Commission campaign. Together, Lacayo’s companies qualified for $1 million in forgivable PPP loans.

She also faces a lawsuit from Sweetwater, which demanded she repay nearly $69,000 in wages she received while illegally serving as a Commissioner. In July 2022, she dropped an effort to seal the records of her perjury case after the filings became public and prosecutors pushed back, arguing the public should know of a candidate’s prior misdeeds.

One of her businesses, Lacayo Trade Group, has been the subject of six civil suits totaling $350,000 related to credit card, business equipment, commercial loan and legal bill debts and claims from an employee over unpaid overtime and lost wages.

Lacayo is married to Nelson Rubio, a local broadcaster who bashed Bermudez on air during last year’s race while promoting his wife’s campaign. Her financial disclosures from last year show she claimed to have a net worth of $25 million.

Bermudez defeated Lacayo with 66% of the vote Aug. 23.


Editor’s note: An earlier version of this report said Fernandez Rundle’s office first shared details of the charges against Lacayo Aug. 31. The charges were first shared and reported in July.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.

One comment

  • Sonja Fitch

    September 3, 2023 at 5:14 am

    “NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW.” Trump and Desantis and Rick Scott are examples of politicians that ACT AS IF!

Comments are closed.


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