DeSantis announces 20 people statewide charged with election fraud, promises more arrests

Press conference touts Governor’s new Office of Election Crimes and Security

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his new agency resulted in cases of alleged voter fraud.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Flanked by more than a dozen Broward County Sheriff’s deputies, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced at the Broward County Courthouse that the state is charging 20 people with election fraud.

Joining DeSantis on Thursday was an invitation-only crowd — Republicans who came to cheer on the governor.

Also on hand were Attorney General Ashley Moody, Secretary of State Cord Byrd, Peter Antonacci, the newly appointed and first election crimes and security officer, and Mark Glass, acting commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

(Watch the entire press conference below)

“All 20 of the individuals were disqualified from voting after they were convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense, but they chose to vote anyway, and now they have all been charged with voter fraud,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.

The offense is a third-degree felony punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and up to 5 years in prison.

Local 10 News has obtained the names of some of those who have been arrested.

In Miami-Dade County

  • Robert Lee Wood, 56, of Opa Locka, was booked into Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center.
  • Ronald Lee Miller, 57, of Miami, was booked into Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center.

Bond was set at $5,000 for each. Both are facing two counts of Election Code fraud: unqualified voter and false swearing to an oath.

In Palm Beach County

  • Leo Grant Jr., 55, of South Bay, was booked into West Palm Beach County Jail.
  • Luis Villaran, 63, of Delray Beach, was booked into West Palm Beach County Jail.
  • Robert Simpson, 64, of Pahokee, was booked into West Palm Beach County Jail.

In Orange County

  • Peter Washington, 59, of Orlando, was booked into Orange County Jail.
  • Hubert Jack, 65, of Tampa, was booked into Orange County Jail.
  • Michelle Stribling, 52, of Eatonville, was booked into Orange County Jail.
  • Jerry Foster, 72, of Orlando, was booked into Orange County Jail.
Four people of 20 statewide are arrested and charged with election fraud, announced Gov. Ron DeSantis. Clockwise, from upper left, Luis Villaran, 63, of Delray Beach, Palm Beach County, Michelle Stribling, 52, of Eatonville, Orange County, Robert Simpson, 64, of Pahokee, and Leo Grant Jr. 55, of South Bay, both of Palm Beach County. (WPLG)

“We also have folks that are voting that are illegal aliens,” DeSantis said.

The Office of Election Crimes and Security was launched on July 1. DeSantis said at the press conference that the office was his idea. He said the ones announced on Friday are the first 20 cases of voter fraud to be prosecuted and there will be more to come.

Antonacci, who was appointed by DeSantis in July as the first Director of the Office of Election Crimes and Security, is a former Broward County Supervisor of Elections.

The director of the Office of Election Crimes and Security is housed within the Florida Department of State.

In March, the Florida House passed a bill that created the new state office dedicated to investigating election crimes. The bill passed the GOP-controlled House along party lines and DeSantis signed it into law.

“This is just the first step,” DeSantis said. “There are going to be foreign nationals. We want the federal government to be working constructively on this and so far that has not been the case. We have an obligation to make sure that U.S. citizens are voting.”

DeSantis addressed rumors that he had come to Fort Lauderdale to take to task Broward County’s Supervisor of Elections, Joe Scott. He said that was not the case.

In July as some vote-by-mail ballots begin arriving in South Florida, some Broward County voters received the wrong vote-by-mail ballots.

DeSantis said he has directed the Department of State to communicate to county Supervisors of Elections with instructions on records they must preserve until additional reviews and investigations are complete.

“Everyone will be on notice.”

DeSantis sent a warning saying that his new office is on high alert.

“In 2020, Florida ran an efficient, transparent election that avoided the major problems we saw in other states. At the same time, the election was not perfect, which is why we continue our efforts to ensure the integrity of our elections . . . Today’s actions send a clear signal to those who are thinking about ballot harvesting or fraudulently voting. If you commit an elections crime, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

DeSantis, a Republican, became governor on Jan. 8, 2019. His term ends on Jan. 3, 2023, and he is running for re-election.


About the Authors:

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true-crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local 10.com.

Michael Putney came to Local 10 in 1989 to become senior political reporter and host of "This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney." He is Local 10's senior political reporter.