Breaking news as reported in the Miami Herald:
U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia’s staff chief implicated in ballot scheme
The chief of staff resigned after law enforcement raided the homes of two of the congressman’s top aides.
BY PATRICIA MAZZEI
Congressman Joe Garcia’s chief of staff abruptly resigned Friday after being implicated in a sophisticated scheme to manipulate last year’s primary elections by submitting hundreds of fraudulent absentee-ballot requests.
Friday afternoon, Garcia said he had asked Jeffrey Garcia, no relation, for his resignation after the chief of staff — also the congressman’s top political strategist — took responsibility for the plot. Joe Garcia took the action hours after law enforcement investigators raided the homes of another of his employees and a former campaign aide in connection with an ongoing investigation.
“I’m shocked and disappointed about this,” Garcia, who said he was unaware of the plot, told The Miami Herald. “This is something that hit me from left field. Until today, I had no earthly idea this was going on.”
Jeffrey Garcia declined to comment. He also worked last year on the campaign of Democrat Patrick Murphy, who unseated tea-party Republican Congressman Allen West. Murphy has not been implicated in the phantom-requests operation.
The Miami-Dade state attorney’s office served search warrants Friday at the homes of Giancarlo Sopo, 30, Joe Garcia’s communications director, and John Estes, 26, his 2012 campaign manager. Neither Estes nor Sopo responded to requests for comment.