Accused ‘ghost’ candidate in Osceola County commission race arrested

Carlos Irizarry, a former Kissimmee city commissioner accused of being a “ghost” candidate in the 2022 District 4 race for Osceola County Commission, was arrested last week.

Jackie Espinosa, a candidate who ran in the 2022 commissioner district 4 race filed a lawsuit in September accusing Irizarry, 67, of being paid to run in a scheme to steal Hispanic votes, allowing the incumbent, Cheryl Greib, to retain her seat.

In December, a judge in Osceola County dismissed the suit because Irizarry lived outside the district so he could not be defined as an “elector,” or voter, in the race. Florida law only allows an election to be overturned due to a bribe to an “elector, election official, or canvassing board member,” the judge wrote. Espinosa filed an appeal.

Irizarry was arrested by the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office on Friday and faces misdemeanors related to campaign finance reports, according to arrest records.

Irizarry was elected as the first Hispanic Kissimmee city commissioner in 2006 but he was suspended from his position by then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist in 2010 after a domestic violence arrest.

Espinosa, who is now running for Kissimmee mayor, said in a statement that she is grateful but torn emotionally by the news of Irizarry’s arrest.

“He was a dear friend for many years and his actions have weighed heavy on my heart since coming to light,” Espinosa said. “…The arrest made…validates what our campaign has always known: a concerted effort by criminals in our community conspired to disenfranchise the Latino voters to benefit the incumbent candidate in the Osceola County Commission District 4 race.”

Espinosa will host a press conference Monday at 11 a.m. at her restaurant, Matador Tacos & Tapas Bar, at 120 Broadway, No. 102, Kissimmee, to announce her candidacy in the 2024 county mayor election.