Records show a web of payments involving players in investigating fake Senate candidates


A young Republican political operative, who is also the subject of a public corruption investigation into former Republican state senator Frank Artiles, offered to a recent college graduate last September. You don’t have to do anything.

At the time, 25-year-old Haley Defilippis, who lives in Palm Harbor, realized she was pregnant and “crazy about money.”

So she took up Alex Alvarado in the offer. And she appointed her name as chair of The Truth. This is a dark money-funded political commissar that spent $ 180,000 on political email advertising promoting fake candidates in major 2020 legislative elections. Twice in Miami-Dade and once in Central Florida.

Alvarado paid her an additional $ 2,500 for her “inconvenience” when the reporter began calling her with questions about the committee.

“I was hired for $ 1,500. It was such a deal, and he was generous enough to give me more because of the stress it was causing me,” Defilippis said in December. Said in an affidavit given to the Miami prosecutor.

Defilippis, who said he was connected to Alvarado through a high school friend, testified that he knew nothing about plans to influence the 2020 elections. However, her statement, and other documents released late Friday, provide new details on the breadth of criminal investigations against Artilles and his longtime acquaintance Alexis Pedro Rodriguez.

Prosecutors said Rodriguez was hired by Artiles, paid about $ 44,000 to change his party affiliation from Republican to non-party, qualify for ballots, and qualify for the Miami-Dade Senate 37th district election results. He states that he tried to influence. Republican candidate Ileana Garcia won the race with 32 votes. Rodriguez, who shared the same name as the Democratic incumbent, won more than 6,000 votes.

From June 15th to November 15th, 2020, court documents indicate that Artiles had a contract to work for Republican veteran political operative Pat Bainter for $ 15,000 per month. According to those documents, Baiter paid Artilles $ 90,000 and refunded $ 4,000 for his travels, courier, and “research.”

“I am waiting for an order.”

According to an email released on Friday, the item is Data Targeting Inc. We urged Bainter’s Chief Financial Officer, Lance Gardner, to question its legitimacy.

“Is this okay? We have $ 4,000 in bid information for” research, “” Gardner asked.

Bator replied: “Yes.” In a later email, he added, “You and I will talk.”

In an email from Artilles on September 14, a former lawmaker revealed that Baiter was calling for a shot. Artiles writes: “Attached is a September invoice for review and approval. I’m waiting for an order. Remember to have 6 independent PCs if needed. “.” The reference to “PC” probably refers to the political commissar.

Artilles signed a contract with Bainter on June 9, 2020. The next day, Rodriguez met Artilles at his Palmetto Bay residence in Artilles and filled out a campaign form. To qualify as a candidate for an elected position, I had to fill out a form and relied on Artiles’ instructions. “

Neither Baiter nor Gardner have responded to phone calls or emails asking for comment since they learned that Herald had received the subpoena. A strong GOP-linked research firm based in Gainesville also served as a general consultant for the Republican Senate campaign during the 2020 election cycle.

Senator Wilton Simpson, who campaigned for the Republican Senate during the 2020 election cycle, said it had nothing to do with the efforts of Artiles and political mailers.

Erin Isaac, a spokeswoman for the Political Commission running a Republican campaign in the Senate, and Simpson, who heads the Political Commission, said in March, “We were not involved and outside to the race. I wasn’t aware of the involvement either. “

What is the probe range?

Records released Friday show that Miami investigators have found funding and understand the breadth of alleged plans beyond the only Artilles and Rodriguez ever facing criminal accusations. is showing.

Investigators are also looking for more than $ 500,000 in funding for political mailers who helped run three nonpartisan candidates in three Senate elections, including Rodriguez. Voting for independent candidates proved decisive only in Senate District 37.

Overall, a dark money group called Grow United spent $ 550,000 on what was reported in the campaign document as a political mailer, paid by two political committees, The Truth and Our Florida. Both political committees were chaired by a young woman with no known political experience hired by Alvarado.

Political mailers were sent to voters in October 2020 to talk about nonpartisan candidates who are not campaigning independently as candidates with progressive ideals that appear to be trying to appeal to Democratic voters. did.

Alvarado told the Miami Herald in April that no one had hired him to carry out his efforts. He said it was a “business venture.” His stepfather, Luis Rodriguez, runs Advance Impressions LLC, which printed political email ads worth $ 550,000, according to election funding records.

“This is an independent spending effort. By law, there was no coordination with these candidates, especially with no one, whether or not they were hired,” Alvarado told Herald at the time. Said in the text message of.

Tim Vander Giesen, a corruption lawyer at the Miami-Dade County law firm, told DeFilippis in December that Alvarado was a “potential subject” for the investigation. Alvarado declined to comment when contacted by phone. No criminal accusations have been filed against him.

According to investigators, Artilles hired Rodriguez as a fake candidate after a private Facebook message sent at 4 am on May 15, 2020. According to a screenshot of the conversation, Artilles wrote to Rodriguez. “I have a question for you.”

Between June 2020 and November 2020, Artiles was accused of paying Rodriguez $ 44,708 in exchange for Rodriguez’s change of affiliation from Republican to non-party and eligible for voting. increase.

Family bond

A document released Friday also reveals a network of crossing connections involving Alvarado’s brother-in-law, family car dealership, and Alvarado’s stepfather as part of the investigation.

Wade Scales, Artilles’ brother-in-law, paid Rodriguez $ 9,000 at the request of Artilles, Scales said in his testimony recording. Artilles was interested and told Scale that he would pay him back within two weeks, Scale said. He said it was a lot of money for Scale, but he said he trusted Artilles and agreed to do it.

But Mr. Scales told investigators that he was nervous about giving money to Rodriguez, who he knew for a long time and had a history of financial hardship.

“I’ve lent Alex money in the past, and it’s hard to get it back from him,” Scale said in a statement sworn to investigators in March. “I told him [Artiles], I go, if you are dealing with Alex Rodriguez, he doesn’t like to return your money, so you should be more careful. “

According to records released on Friday, prosecutors will have bank records on a scale from First Horizon Bank in Palmetto Bay between January 1, 2020 and December 15, 2020, and cash on November 13, 2020. Summoned a record of withdrawals. For the document, Scales deposited a $ 15,945 check from Key Scales Ford in Leessburg and received a cashback of $ 9,000.