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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Aide to Rep. Joe Garcia resigns amid election scandal

From the Miami Herald's Patricia Mazzei:

Giancarlo Sopo, Congressman Joe Garcia's communications director who has been ensnared in an ongoing criminal investigation into fraudulent absentee-ballot requests, has resigned.

Sopo informed Garcia, a Miami Democrat, of his resignation Friday, Garcia's office confirmed Monday. Neither the congressman nor Sopo could be immediately reached for comment.

Sopo had been placed on unpaid administrative leave last month, days after Miami-Dade prosecutors and police raided the home of one of his family members in connection with the scheme to request ballots for nearly 500 unsuspecting voters in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary.

Garcia said at the time that Sopo told him he was not involved in the ballot-requests plot. "He said he did not do that, and I take him at his word," Garcia said.

Republicans hammered Garcia for not immediately firing Sopo. The congressman's action stood in contrast to his swift dismissal of former chief of staff and top political adviser Jeffrey Garcia, no relation, who admitted to his boss that he orchestrated the attempt to manipulate the election.
Jeffrey Garcia's admission came hours after the Miami-Dade state attorney's office and other law enforcement executed search warrants on May 31 seeking computers and other electronic equipment at the family homes of Sopo and John Estes, Joe Garcia's 2012 campaign manager.

Garcia, pledging to cooperate with prosecutors, hired attorney William Barzee to conduct an internal investigation into the matter. The congressman also said he urged his former chief of staff to work with investigators, but Jeffrey Garcia has not yet met with the state attorney's office, said his lawyer, Henry Bell.

"There's an ongoing investigation," Bell said Monday. "As I've said before, I don't think it's appropriate to jump to conclusions that the law has been violated here."

In a separate absentee-ballot case, investigators on June 13 raided the home of a Juan Pablo Baggini, a political worker for the mayoral campaign of Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez, for submitting 20 absentee-ballot requests from his computer. Sopo volunteered on Suarez's campaign in January.

State law requires prohibits anyone other than voters or their immediate family members from requesting mail-in ballots. Suarez has said no one on his campaign intentionally broke the law and that the case has nothing to do with the more-organized fraud that took place in the congressional race last year.

[Last modified: Monday, July 1, 2013 2:03pm]


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