The former chief of staff for Miami Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia pleaded not guilty Wednesday to secretly giving money to a suspected ringer tea-party candidate in 2010.
Jeffrey Garcia, who surrendered to authorities Wednesday, was charged with conspiracy to give a campaign contribution of less than $25,000, a misdemeanor offense.
Federal prosecutors say Garcia, no relation to the former congressman, put up the $10,440 qualifying fee for the shadow candidate, Jose Rolando “Roly” Arrojo, to siphon votes away from Republican rival David Rivera, who ended up winning the 2010 congressional election.
Arrojo also surrendered Wednesday and pleaded guilty to the same misdemeanor offense as Garcia in Miami federal court.
Garcia, 42, and Arrojo, 41, were released on personal surety bonds. They are eventually expected to change their pleas to guilty in the hope of receiving lenient prison sentences.