Consultant pleads not guilty in ‘ghost candidate’ case

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SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — A political consultant charged with helping put a “ghost candidate” on a ballot to siphon off votes from a Democratic candidate in a state Senate race in the center of Florida pleaded not guilty to election finance charges on Tuesday in his first court appearance.

James “Eric” Foglesong pleaded in an arraignment hearing at the Seminole County Courthouse.

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

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Iannotti illegally accepted a $1,200 cash donation from Foglesong for his campaign. Iannoitti and Foglesong falsely used other people’s names as contributors in state campaign finance reports to circumvent Florida campaign contribution laws, the FDLE said.

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


According to the Orlando Sentinel, the candidates were promoted through a paid advertising blitz by a nonprofit black money group run by consultants working closely with Florida Power & Light.

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

Iannotti and Paris have pleaded not guilty.

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