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Orange County Commissioner (and one-time Crist supporter) Mildred Fernandez arrested for accepting illegal campaign contributions, grand theft, and bribery

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Several Orlando news outlets are reporting that Orange County Commissioner Mildred Fernandez, who is running for Orange County mayor, was taken to the Orange County Jail Tuesday. Fernandez, 64, was arrested and charged with accepting illegal campaign contributions, grand theft, and bribery. She was released on $5,300 bond around 8:15 p.m. Tuesday.

Gov. Charlie Crist has suspended Fernandezfrom her position on the Orange County Commission. He signed the executive order late Tuesday afternoon after Fernandez was arrested, and issued an executive order that says in light of the felony charges of bribery, grand theft and accepting illegal contributions for her campaign for Orange County Mayor “it is in the best interest of the residents of Orange County, and the citizens of the State of Florida, that Mildred Fernandez be immediately suspended.”

The arrest came as part of a three-month investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office. The charges stem from her agreeing to speed up a building project for Jose Vasquez in exchange for a campaign contribution of $1,000. Fernandez also failed to report the campaign contribution, which led to a grand theft charge. As of 2:35 p.m. Tuesday, Fernandez raised $138,851 in campaign funds, according to the latest financial report filed.

Fernandez announced her run for Orange County mayor last September. Her attorney, Anthony Suarez, said Fernandez will stay in the race because she is innocent and she will fight the charges.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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