Frank Artiles faces February trial over South Florida 'ghost candidate' case

The Miami-Dade Republican faces charges related to an alleged scheme in which he paid a friend to run as a no-party candidate in a state Senate race.

Artiles as seen in an undated photo during his time as a state representative, 2014-16.

Artiles as seen in an undated photo during his time as a state representative, 2014-16. Florida House of Representatives

Former state lawmaker Frank Artiles is set to face trial in February on charges stemming from an alleged "ghost candidate" election scheme.

Lawyers for the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office and for Artiles' defense came before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Ariel Rodriguez on Monday to finally set a trial date on a criminal case that has languished for more than two years.

Now, a trial date has been set for Feb. 5, 2024. Both parties have until Oct. 2 to produce all the discovery for both sides to review.

Artiles, a Republican, faces multiple charges related to an alleged scheme in which he paid a friend, Alexis "Alex" Rodriguez, to run as a no-party candidate in the 2020 Senate District 37 race against Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez. The purported goal of the scheme was to confuse voters based on the two candidates sharing the same last name.

Alex Rodriguez, who did no campaigning and did not even live in the Senate district he was running for, received more than 6,000 votes. Jose Javier Rodriguez, the incumbent, ultimately lost to Republican Ileana Garcia by 34 votes after a manual recount.

Following an investigation by the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, Artiles and his associate were charged in March of 2021 with conspiracy to make or accept campaign contributions in excess of legal limits, accepting and making excess campaign contributions, false swearing in connection to an election and submitting false voter information.

Alex Rodriguez pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Artiles, who has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he faces five-20 years in state prison.

Artiles' attorney, Frank Quintero, said during the Monday hearing that they have expert reports to prove that Alex Rodriguez lied during depositions and deleted an "uncommon quantity" of text messages from his cell phone after the charges were brought against the pair. He intends to bring these reports up at trial.

Artiles was known as a tough-talking U.S. Marine veteran. His brash demeanor earned him the moniker “Frank the Tank” during his tenure in the Legislature.

He served three terms in the Florida House then joined the Florida Senate after defeating a Democrat in a bitter election in 2016.

Artiles resigned from the Senate in 2017 after a profanity-laced tirade, at the private Governors Club in Tallahassee, in which he had insulted two black colleagues and others.

The News Service of Florida contributed background. This story is published as part of a collaboration between City & State Florida and WLRN NewsJoshua Ceballos is WLRN's Local Government Accountability Reporter and a member of the investigations team. Reach Ceballos at jceballos@wlrnnews.org

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