Florida candidate recruited by Republican to confuse voters accepts plea deal in election fraud case

According to a report from the Miami Herald, a Florida man who was recruited by a former Republican Party lawmaker to run in a local election and siphon off votes from the Democratic incumbent has taken a plea deal in a voter fraud case.

Alexis Rodriguez, an auto parts salesman, was encouraged to run in an election pitting Republican Ileana Garcia -- who won the seat in the state senate by a slim 32 votes -- against incumbent Democrat José Javier Rodríguez by former state Sen. Frank Artiles (R) in an effort to siphon off votes due to their similar names.

According to the Herald, "Investigators say Artiles, a Republican, funneled more than $40,000 to Rodriguez in exchange for him changing his party affiliation from Republican and qualifying for the ballot as a no-party candidate in Senate District 37. They also say Rodriguez submitted false information on his sworn candidate documents, marking that he lived in a Palmetto Bay home when he was actually renting a house in Boca Raton at the time of the election. Knowingly filing an incorrect address with the state — or assisting someone to do so — is a third-degree felony."

Rodriguez admitted his complicity in the scheme in court, then apologized during a hearing before Judge Andrea Ricker Wolfson.

After pleading guilty to four felony charges including "conspiracy to make campaign contributions in excess of legal limits and accepting and making those excess campaign contributions," Rodriguez told the court, "I would like to publicly offer a sincere apology to the residents of Florida District Senate 37 including [Democrat incumbent] Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, the people of Miami-Dade County and the state of Florida, and anyone else who was affected by my actions."

The report notes that, as part of his plea deal, Rodrigues will be put on probation for 36 months, which includes 12 months of house arrest while wearing a GPS monitor.