An independent "ghost" candidate and two political operatives were charged Tuesday in an alleged campaign finance scheme by Republican operatives intended to prop up a sham candidacy to siphon voters from a candidate in a Florida state race in 2020.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced the charges against Seminole County Chairman Ben Paris and political consultant James Eric Foglesong, who are accused of falsely using the names of other individuals to skirt campaign finance laws and donate to ghost candidate Jestine Iannotti, who accepted an illegal donation. The three face a total of 12 charges.


"Some NPA candidates, commonly referred to as 'ghost' candidates, have been used by political parties as a way to close elections or siphon off votes. While not illegal per se, many have questioned the ethics of the practice," State Attorney Phil Archer said. "However, when that candidate and the partisan political operatives involved violate election finance laws by illegally funding those races and filing false reports, it is the responsibility of government to act."

Information about attorneys for the defendants was not immediately available at the time of publishing.

Investigators have been reviewing Iannotti's campaign as well as three others that had been promoted by GOP political consultant Alex Alvarado, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Alvarado is subject to an ongoing investigation. Iannotti ran for state Senate in District 9. She was unaffiliated and hardly campaigned for the seat. Prior to the 2020 election, Iannotti reportedly applied to be a resident in Sweden and subsequently moved to Stockholm following the election.

Some of her supporters sent out promotional material that portrayed a black woman, even though Iannotti is white. She was running against Democrat Patricia Sigman and Republican Jason Brodeur for the seat. Brodeur won 50.3% to 47.6% by a margin of 7,644 votes. Iannotti received 2.1%, or 5,787 votes, in the race.

Paris, the former mayor of Longwood, works for the Seminole County Chamber of Commerce, which is led by Brodeur. He is facing one charge for making one contribution through, or in, the name of another in the election as part of the alleged scheme.


Foglesong is facing five charges, including making two or more contributions through, or in, the name of another; commission of a false, fictitious, or fraudulent act; making an aggregate cash contribution in excess of $50 to the same candidate; and false reporting. Iannotti is facing six charges, including the commission of a false, fictitious, or fraudulent act; accepting aggregate cash contribution in excess of $50 from the same contributor, two counts of perjury, false reporting, and accepting one contribution through, or in, the name of another in the election.