Garcia on Saturday attempted to control the damage inflicted on his office a
day earlier, when he dismissed his chief of staff for apparently orchestrating
a scheme to submit hundreds of fraudulent absentee-ballot requests.
In a news
conference held at his West Miami-Dade office Saturday morning, Garcia, a
Democrat, maintained that he had no knowledge of the failed plot during last
year’s primary election. He said he learned about his campaign’s involvement
only the previous afternoon from chief of staff Jeffrey Garcia, who is
unrelated to the congressman and has long served as his top political
stress how angry I am at these events,” Joe Garcia said Saturday.
He called the
plot “ill-conceived” but added: “I think it was a well-intentioned attempt to
maximize voter turnout.”
Garcia said he
had been on stage early Friday afternoon at John
Senior High School in West Kendall, shaking the hands of hundreds of graduates,
when he began to get word that something was amiss.
law enforcement officers had raided the family homes of his communications
director, Giancarlo Sopo, 30, and his former campaign manager, John Estes, 26,
searching for computers and other electronic equipment in connection with an
ongoing criminal investigation by the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office into
the phantom ballot requests.
graduation ceremony, Garcia said he met with Jeffrey Garcia, 40, who took
responsibility for the scheme. He then resigned at the congressman’s request.
precipitous events came three months after a Miami Herald investigation found
that hundreds of 2,552 fraudulent online requests for the Aug. 14 primaries
originated from mystery hackers using Internet Protocol addresses in Miami. The Herald found
those requests were clustered and targeted Democratic voters in Congressional
District 26, which stretches from Kendall to Key West and where Garcia was competing
against three other candidates.