News Section: Law Enforcement
Waechter Given No-Prison Time Deal on Fraud Charges
BRADENTON -- Former Sarasota County Republican Party chair Bob Waechter pleaded guilty to one felony and one misdemeanor charge on Thursday, in a plea deal that will allow the GOP power broker to avoid jail time for purchasing a pre-paid debit card and making fraudulent campaign donations in the name of a local political rival.
Waechter will be placed on house arrest for three months and probation for two years, while paying $5,000 in fines and a little more than $2,000 in fees. Waechter used a pre-paid debit card to make bogus donations to three Democratic candidates in the name of Lourdes Ramirez, a local Republican who will face one of Waechter's known associates, Alan Malo, in a 2014 Republican primary for the Sarasota County Commission. The purchases were thought to be a way to embarrass Ramirez in her upcoming campaign, though no evidence was presented to tie Malo to the scheme.
Waechter faced up to five years in prison for the charges. 12th Circuit State Attorney Ed Brodsky, a Republican who had received support from Waechter, chose not to move the case outside of the 12th circuit and denied a request by the FBI to join the case, leading to speculation that the lenient plea deal could have been a political favor.
In September, Waechter paid $5,000 in civil penalties after agreeing to a legal settlement with the Federal Election Commission who was also investigating the incident as they applied to FEC regulations. Though he has mostly operated in Sarasota County, where he enjoys close ties with powerful developers, Waechter appeared on the Manatee County political radar in 2012, when he fronted an attack-ad group called Take Back Our Government, which was funded by Medallion Homes developer Carlos Beruff.
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