Shill candidate to testify against former state Sen. Frank Artiles

Alex Rodriguez plans to enter plea deal next week

The shill candidate who was allegedly paid by a former state senator to enter as a non-party affiliated candidate in the race for District 37 will be accepting a plea deal.

In a court hearing Thursday morning, it was revealed that on Tuesday, Alex Rodriguez will be entering into a plea deal struck with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. Rodriguez began cooperating with the State Attorney’s Office after an investigation was opened Nov. 11, one day after a Local 10 News story outlined evidence that some state senate candidates were plants funded by dark money.

In addition, Rodriguez will be testifying in the case against former state senator Frank Artiles.

It’s alleged that Artiles offered to pay Rodriguez $50,000 to run as a non-party affiliated candidate against incumbent Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez and Republican Ileana Garcia in the state senate race for District 37. More than 6,000 votes were cast for Alexis Rodriguez. The close margin between Jose Javier Rodriguez and Garcia triggered a recount. Garcia won the seat by just 32 votes.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office has said there is no evidence to suggest Garcia was involved or had any knowledge of the shill being planted in the race.

Artiles and Rodriguez were charged in March 2021. The two have been charged with four felonies and Artiles has pleaded not guilty.

Late last month, records released by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office showed the alleged scheme was funded and connected to a prominent Republican consulting firm.

State election records show dozens of Political Action Committees (PACs) paying that firm, Data Targeting, Inc during the 2020 election cycle, including the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. That committee’s payments to Data Targeting include “research” on senate races for District 37, 39 and 9.

The alleged planted candidate in Central Florida’s District 9 State Senate race is Jestine Iannotti, whose financial support from a PAC shows identical patterns not only to the shill candidate in District 37 but also to candidate Celso Alfonso, who ran for District 39.