Consultant pleads not guilty in 'ghost candidate' case

·1-min read
Political consultant Eric Foglesong raises his hand to be sworn-in to testify in an arraignment in Seminole Circuit Court in Sanford, Fla., Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Foglesong pleaded not guilty to felony charges of misreporting contributions to a "ghost candidate" during the campaign for a Florida Senate seat in 2020. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — A political consultant who is accused of helping put a “ghost candidate" on a ballot to siphon off votes from a Democratic candidate in a state Senate race in central Florida pleaded not guilty to election finance-related charges Tuesday during his first court appearance.

James “Eric” Foglesong entered the plea during an arraignment hearing at the Seminole County Courthouse.

In May, prosecutors filed charges against Foglesong; the candidate, Jestine Iannotti; and Seminole County GOP chairman Ben Paris.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Iannotti illegally accepted a $1,200 cash donation from Foglesong for her campaign. Iannoitti and Foglesong falsely used the names of others as contributors in state campaign finance reports to skirt Florida laws on campaign contributions, the FDLE said.

The Seminole County race was one of three state Senate races where independent candidates filed to run but did not campaign in 2020.

The candidates were promoted in an advertising blitz paid for by a dark money nonprofit group run by consultants working closely with Florida Power & Light, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

In one of the other races, former state Sen. Frank Artiles is accused of bribing a friend to run. Artiles has also pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to stand trial next month.

Iannotti and Paris have entered not guilty pleas.

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