FLORIDA – A former candidate for state senator and two others are facing charges related to an alleged campaign finance scheme associated with the former candidate’s 2020 campaign for Florida State Senate, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) announced today.
Following an investigation by the FDLE, Jestine Phillea Iannotti, 36, of Winter Springs, and James Eric Foglesong, 45, of Winter Park, are facing criminal charges regarding a campaign finance scheme in the 2020 Florida State Senate race for District 9, the FDLE said.
Benjamin Richard Paris, 38, of Longwood, is being served a court summons for his part in the scheme.
Iannotti ran as an independent candidate for Florida State Senate District 9 in the 2020 election.
The FDLE said its investigation showed that Iannotti illegally accepted a $1,200 cash donation from Foglesong in support of her candidacy. Agents said they found that Iannotti and Foglesong falsely used the names of other individuals as contributors in official campaign finance documents reported to the Florida Department of State to skirt Florida laws on campaign contributions.
Agents said Paris provided the name and address of one of the individuals Iannotti and Foglesong falsely used in their official campaign reporting, even though Paris knew the individual had not contributed to the campaign.
“Elections are the cornerstone of our democracy, and we must do everything we can to ensure they are fair and transparent,” said FDLE Acting Commissioner Mark Glass.
“Lying about campaign donations is unacceptable because it provides an unfair advantage to the candidate. Protecting the integrity of our elections is a top priority in Florida, and that includes making sure candidates follow the laws.”
Iannotti faces one felony count of commission of a false, fictitious or fraudulent act, statement or representation in a matter within the jurisdiction of the State of Florida, Department of State, one count of accepting an aggregate cash contribution in excess of $50 from the same contributor in an election, two counts of perjury not in official proceeding, one count of false reporting or deliberate failure to include information required by F.S. Chapter 106, and one count of accepting one contribution through or in the name of another in any election.
Foglesong faces one felony count of making two or more contributions through or in the name of another in any election, one felony count of commission of a false, fictitious or fraudulent act, statement or representation in a matter within the jurisdiction of the State of Florida, Department of State, one felony count of unlawful use of a two-way communication device, one count of making an accepting an aggregate cash contribution in excess of $50 to the same candidate in an election, and one count of false reporting or deliberate failure to include information required by F.S. Chapter 106.
Paris faces one count of making one contribution through or in the name of another in any election, a first-degree misdemeanor.
The FDLE said it previously arrested Foglesong in 2019 on four counts of grand theft after an investigation showed he stole approximately $20,000 from a political action committee he had co-founded during the 2018 election for Orange County Sheriff.
Pursuant to FDLE arrest warrants, Iannotti and Foglesong have until May 25 to turn themselves in to the Seminole County Jail on $4,500 and $10,000 bonds, respectively.
The case will be prosecuted by the Office of the State Attorney, 18th Judicial Circuit, the FDLE said.