New audio reveals details of sham candidate scheme

Woman says she was offered $1,000 to be named a political action committee chair

Hailey DeFilippis told detectives she was approached about chairing a political action committee by a childhood friend who now has a political career in Tallahassee.

DORAL, Fla. – The chair of one of two political action committees tied to an alleged sham candidate scheme told investigators with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office she had “no idea what the hell” she got herself into.

In an audio interview released by the State Attorney’s Office, Hailey DeFilippis told investigators she was approached about chairing a committee by a childhood friend who now has a political career in Tallahassee.

According to DeFilippis, her friend said she knew someone who needed a chairperson, but needed someone without a political background to do so.

“So I signed literally a paper to be a chairperson and I thought that was the end of it. I just signed a paper to be a chairperson,” DeFilippis said.

DeFilippis would become the chair of The Truth PC.

She told detectives she knew nothing about the alleged scheme and additionally, didn’t even know she would be chair to a PAC. Trust in her friend, prompted her not to ask for more details.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, whatever. You can use my name. I don’t care,’” DeFilippis said.

After that discussion, DeFilippis would be contacted by Republican strategist Alex Alvarado, who she says offered her $1,000 in exchange. DeFilippis told detectives she didn’t know Alvarado before the agreement.

“I’ve never met him,” DeFilippis said. “I don’t go to Tallahassee. I’m a pregnant [expletive] woman. I don’t get why I’m in trouble for this. I did nothing wrong.”

DeFilippis has not been charged in connection to the investigation.

“I don’t know anything about politics,” DeFilippis said. “I’m pregnant. This is stressful. It’s ruining my life. I have no idea what I did. I really don’t.”

Alvarado established The Truth and the Our Florida PAC, according to court documents obtained by Local 10 in late July. Both PACs received the money from Grow United and both paid the company Advanced Impressions, which is owned by Alvarado’s stepfather, for flyers for the third-party candidates in state senate races for Districts 9, 37 and 39.

The Truth PC would end up funding the non-party affiliated candidate, Jestine Iannotti, in Central Florida’s race for District 9. The Truth PC’s funding is also identical to the funding for District 37 and 39. Those two races received money from the Our Florida PAC, chaired by Sierra Olive. Records show Alvarado making identical requests to open campaign accounts for both PACs.

During her conversation with detectives, DeFilippis said she reached out to Alvarado after reporters began contacting her.

“The reporters started calling me so I called him and I was like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ And he’s like, ‘It’ll pass. It’ll pass.’” DeFilippis said. “Then I have family calling me telling me I’m on the news.”

In her December statement to the state attorney’s office, she would reveal she got an additional $2,500 after those news reports began. She told them, Alvarado gave her the extra money “just for the inconvenience.”

DeFilippis told detectives Alvarado reassured her it would “blow over” and that “everything’s legal.”

During the course of the interview, DeFilippis told detectives she wasn’t “supposed to be talking” to them.

“I know that you’re going to go back to him and tell him all of this,” DeFilippis said before going onto say, “I don’t know what they’re going to do to me.”

Detectives later asked her if she had been threatened, to which she answered no.

DeFilippis even told them at one point that Alvarado told her he’d “appreciate” if she didn’t mention his name when she was asked questions, which she “thought was weird” since he was already named in news reports.

“I’m scared,” DeFillipis said at the end of the more than 30-minute interview. “Because I promise you, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I’ll tell you that much. This is like, mortifying, my face is on the news.

Back in March, former state senator Frank Artiles and admitted-shill candidate Alex Rodriguez were arrested and charged with campaign finance violations.

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.

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

Artiles was set to go to trial in August, but Alex Rodriguez accepted a plea deal from the state attorney’s office, ultimately delaying the trial. Rodriguez will testify against Artiles in exchange for 36 months of probation and house arrest.

About the Authors:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."