Saturday, October 1 2022

The man who negotiated a print job – campaign senders for three “ghost” candidates for the Florida Senate last fall – told investigators he made a profit of $ 136,000 for what the Investigators suggested to have been less than a week of work.

An investigator’s interview with Luis Orlando Rodriguez, owner of Clermont’s Advance Impression LLC, sheds light on how $ 550,000 in dark campaign funds ended up helping three candidates with no party affiliation in Senate races. State in south and central Florida. The interview took place in December 2020 but was released on Tuesday by the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office.

Luis Orlando Rodriguez, 55, is also the stepfather of Alex Alvarado, a Tallahassee-based strategist. Alvarado set up “Our Florida” and “The Truth,” political committees that were used to funnel black money to ghost candidate senders who did not campaign after filling out documents to enter. races for State Senate Districts 9, 37 and 39.

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In his interview, Luis Orlando Rodriguez said he also returned over $ 65,000 of the money he received from the two PACs to his stepson’s company, Alvarado Strategies, as a referral fee. .

Another $ 100,000 was donated to ’96 Consulting and Marketing, a Tallahassee-based company that provided artwork for the ghost candidate campaign senders. Another $ 26,500 was paid as a referral commission to a company run by Ryan Tyson, a political agent from Tallahassee.

Ultimately, $ 220,000 to $ 250,000 of the $ 550,000 initially paid to Advance Impression LLC went to the senders of the three shadow candidates, Luis Orlando Rodriguez estimated.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office has laid election-related criminal charges against Frank Artiles, a former Republican state senator. He is accused of paying one of the ghost candidates in South Florida.

Records show that Artiles also received a monthly counseling check for $ 5,000 from “Let’s Preserve the American Dream,” an organization run by Tyson. And, Artiles was receiving $ 15,000 a month during the 2020 election season from Data Targeting Inc., a powerful Gainesville-based company with close ties to the Florida Republican Senate Campaign Committee.

Neither Alvarado, nor his stepfather, Tyson, Smith or Pat Bainter, owner of Data Targeting Inc., have been charged with any crime.

Artiles was due to be tried this week, but that was delayed as a co-accused and one of the shadow candidates, Alex Rodriguez, pleaded guilty last week and agreed to testify against Artiles. Artiles is accused of recruiting and paying Alex Rodriguez to run as the third candidate in the District 37 State Senate race between incumbent Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez and Republican challenger Ileana Garcia.

Alex Rodriguez kept a low profile during the campaign. But behind the scenes, Alvarado organized the hundreds of thousands of dollars that were spent on buying postcards to be sent to Democrats in that district and two other districts where similar ghost candidates were running.

These dollars came from a Super PAC called Grow United Inc. with a PO Box address in Denver. Grow United is the creation of Richard Alexander of Cullman, Alabama, from records released by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office show.

Grow United has put a total of $ 550,000 into the two PACs created by Alvarado. Alvarado then transferred all of these funds to the company his father-in-law owns, Advance Impression LLC. From there, some of the funds were used to support Alex Rodriguez and the other ghost candidates.

The Senders positioned Alex Rodriguez as a left-wing independent and helped deflect votes from Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez.

Garcia ended up beating Jose Javier Rodriguez by just 32 votes, while Alex Rodriguez, while not campaigning, received over 6,400 votes.

Artiles was not charged with any involvement in the other two state Senate races in Districts 39 and 9. But the money flowing through PACs created by Alvarado to Advance Impression also paid for print jobs for ghost candidates in those races who used left-wing messages that also appeared intended to siphon Democratic votes.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has confirmed that it has opened a preliminary fact-finding investigation related to the District 9 race.

District 9 of the State Senate includes Seminole County and part of southwest Volusia County. The race was won by Republican Jason Brodeur against Democrat Patricia Sigman, with non-party candidate Jestine Iannotti taking third place. Iannotti did not campaign and, according to press reports, he moved to Sweden.

Assistant District Attorney Tim VanderGiesen and Miami-Dade detectives interviewed Luis Orlando Rodriguez, owner of Advance Impression LLC, on December 17, 2020.

There is a knock on the door of this Clermont-Ferrand house, owned by Luis Rodriguez.  last April did not receive a response.  Rodriguez told authorities his stepson Alex Alvarado, a Republican political agent, helped organize print work for independent

Rodriguez told investigators he had worked in the printing press for more than two decades. He moved from South Florida to Central Florida in 2019 and now works for Brandco in Orlando, earning $ 60,000 a year to run the printing department of that company.

He started a side business, Advanced Impression, in 2018, and said he had a “random” customer base, “maybe 10, 12” customers who ordered t-shirts, hats and flyers.

Rodriguez told investigators he did not own any printing equipment. Instead, he hires other people to make the impression.

“I’m a broker, so I just… depending on the type of print I have different vendors that I use,” he told VanderGiesen.

He estimated that he had done political printing maybe five or ten times in the past two and a half years. All were referred to him by Alvarado or September Group, a company run by Alvarado towards his stepfather.

Rodriguez said that in September 2020, Alvarado asked him to help with printing postcards and sending mail. He in turn hired Arrowmail Print + Mail Services in Miami to do the printing.

He said Arrowmail was the only company he contacted, which quoted him prices between $ 220,000 and $ 250,000.

Next, Rodriguez received two wire transfers totaling nearly $ 550,000 from PACs that Alvarado had set up.

In addition to paying Arrowmail, about $ 100,000 went to ’96 Consulting and Marketing, a Tallahassee company run by Smith. ’96 Consulting and Marketing provided the art to use for the print job. Smith emailed the art to Alvarado, who in turn forwarded the email to his stepfather.

Rodriguez paid $ 65,211.54 to Alvarado’s company Alvarado Strategies. He also sent $ 26,500 to Preservation Association Management, a Tallahassee company whose authorized representative is Tyson, consultant and former vice president of Associated Industries of Florida.

Tyson and Alvarado were both active with Let’s Preserve The American Dream, a 501-c-4 research and public opinion organization that paid Artiles in the years leading up to the 2020 election, records show.

Rodriguez admitted that he didn’t know what the management of the preservation association was doing, but sent money to that company through Alvarado because his stepson told him to do it.

“I followed his instructions,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez initially estimated to investigators that the job took him “maybe eight days … coordinate dates, print time, check files, check proofs, send emails.” He then revised it to “maybe five” days.

Even then, an investigator wondered if Rodriguez had even spent that much time on the project.

“So it would be fair to say that you haven’t really spent eight days basically working on this project.” Miami Detective Frank Castillo said. “Seems pretty straightforward to me that the project was referred. You basically called. You have a quote. I started. And that was the end. So I don’t see how you can spend sixty-four hours doing it. that. “

In total, Rodriguez said he won $ 136,000 on the case. Rodriguez initially said he charged 20% of the total dollars he received because it was an industry standard. But when investigators urged him to explain how that amount was set, he replied, “I don’t know.”

VanderGiesen asked, “So, $ 136,000 in profit on a project is a really nice bit of change for you. Is it fair to say?

Rodriguez replied, “Yes it is.”

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