MIAMI – A clear money trail connects a ‘ghost candidate’ in a Central Florida state senate race last November with two other South Florida shill candidates who were subjects of a Local 10 News investigation uncovered last fall.
The scheme to plant that Central Florida candidate has now been linked to Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, according to a New York Times report detailing a federal investigation into sex trafficking allegations.
The alleged planted candidate in Central Florida’s District 9 State Senate race is Jestine Iannotti, whose financial support from a Political Action Committee shows identical patterns to that of two shill candidates: Alex Rodríguez , who ran in Miami Senate District 37, and Celso Alfonso, who ran in District 39.
Rodriguez has since been criminally charged, as has resigned Florida Senator Frank Artiles, both with campaign finance crime.
Bogus campaign records for both shill candidates were retrieved from Artiles’ home in a raid last month.
Florida Division of Elections campaign finance database shows clear financial connections between them and Iannotti, the third shill candidate now tied to Rep. Gaetz by the New York Times.
#Florida Cong. Matt Gaetz is now tied to shill candidate in a state senate election. This thread shows how *that* ghost candidate is directly connected to two So Fla shills we busted last Nov.— Glenna Milberg (@GlennaWPLG) April 12, 2021
It’s in the money trail that led to Frank Artiles arrest.
Here we go:@WPLGLocal10 pic.twitter.com/5Uu96L0L8t
It starts with two political action committees that were opened the very same day, On Oct. 2; Our Florida PAC, backing South Florida candidates Rodríguez and Alfonso, and The Truth PAC for Central Florida candidate, Iannotti.
The next day, both PACs reported their one and only contribution: an untraceable Atlanta company Proclivity that would suddenly change in the records to the also untraceable Denver company, Grow United.
Two days after that, on Oct. 5, both PACs make their one and only expenditure: the combined half-million dollars to a printer company called Advance Impression.
The resulting campaign flyers looked identical in graphics, but for the three candidates’ names, making the no-party candidates appealing to democratic voters that they were meant to confuse.
Back to #Florida Cong. Matt Gaetz, whom NYT connects to D9 shill candidate Jestine Iannotti...— Glenna Milberg (@GlennaWPLG) April 12, 2021
Shill “schemes” are not illegal in #Florida; illegal campaign funding is.
That’s how #Miami SAO charged Artiles & Rodriguez.
No indication Central FL SAOs are on the case.@WPLGLocal10
The printer is located in Clermont, but the owners are from Miami; the mother and stepfather of a Republican strategist connected to both PACs, both of which have since been disabled.
Gaetz is allegedly connected to the Central Florida shill scheme, according to the New York Times.
But it’s that dark money, not the scheme, that makes a shill illegal, as the arrests of former Senator Artiles and shill Rodríguez show so far.