Fla. lawmaker’s chief of staff resigns amid absentee ballot probe

The chief of staff to freshman Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.) resigned on Friday after he was implicated in a plot to submit hundreds of fraudulent absentee ballots during the congressman’s primary election last year.

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Jeffrey Garcia, who's not related to the congressman, left at Rep. Garcia’s request after he took responsibility for the scheme, The Miami Herald reported. The resignation came hours after law enforcement officials raided the homes of former Garcia campaign employees as part of an investigation into the matter.

“I’m shocked and disappointed about this,” Rep. Garcia, who said he was unaware of the scheme, told the Herald. “This is something that hit me from left field. Until today, I had no earthly idea this was going on.”

Jeffrey Garcia declined to comment to the paper, which reported that he also worked for the campaign of Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.), who defeated Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) in 2012.

Rep. Garcia said he was likely to put his communications director, Giancarlo Sopo, on administrative leave after Sopo was served with a search warrant Friday.

The probe began after a Herald investigation found that 2,552 fraudulent requests for ballots from the Aug. 14 primaries came from Internet Protocol addresses in Miami, and most of the requests came from foreign IP addresses.

The paper found that the requests targeted Democratic voters in Garcia’s congressional district, as well as Republicans in two nearby state legislature races.