Seminole County Republican chairman found guilty of misdemeanor in ‘ghost candidate’ case

Benjamin Paris was convicted of giving money to a candidate under a false name

Benjamin Paris is one of three candidates in the so-called Seminole County "ghost candidate" case.

SANFORD, Fla. – The first of three people charged in the so-called “ghost candidate” case in Seminole County has been found guilty.

Benjamin Paris, the former mayor of Longwood and current chairman of the Seminole County Republican Executive Committee, was found guilty on Thursday of making a contribution through or in the name of another person in an election.

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The jury took three hours to deliberate after a two-day trial.

Paris was accused of making a $1,200 campaign donation in a family member’s name to Jestine Iannotti, a no-party-affiliate candidate in the race for Florida Senate District 9 in the 2020 election.

Iannotti was allegedly recruited to be a spoiler candidate in the race to siphon votes from the Democratic candidate in favor of the Republican candidate. She never campaigned in the race and had no prior political experience.

State Sen. Jason Brodeur won the election with 50.3% of the vote to Democrat Patricia Sigman’s 47.6%. Iannotti took in 2.1% of the vote.

Paris also works with Brodeur in the Seminole County Chamber of Commerce.

Paris was sentenced to 12 months of probation, 200 hours of community service, and he must pay more than $42,000 in investigative costs.

“Today’s conviction of Mr. Paris demonstrates that political operatives seeking to run campaigns in a manner outside the limits of Florida law will be held accountable, regardless of their role or the severity of their actions,” said State Attorney Phil Archer. “I believe the integrity of our election process begins with the integrity of the candidate and their campaign.”

Iannotti is facing multiple felony charges, as is her co-defendant Eric Foglesong. They are awaiting trial.

About the Author:

Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.