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Broker in Middle of Political Scandal

Jorge Roque's sister-in-law allegedly funneled illegal contributions to his campaign

August 24, 2004

By PATRICK CROWLEY


A Miami mortgage broker said he "did not know any details" over allegations a sister-in-law funneled illegal contributions into his political campaign.

In a brief interview with MortgageDaily.com, mortgage broker and Realtor Jorge Roque denied any involvement with a political contribution scam that Florida authorities say was orchestrated by his sister-in-law.

"There is no relationship between that and my campaign," Roque, a candidate for Miami-Dade County Commission, said during over his cell phone. "My campaign is going well.

"I did not know any details," he said. "I realized what happened the same morning she was arrested. Her lawyer will have to handle that case."

Rogue said he could not comment further.

"I can't comment, it would be improper for me to comment," he said.

The political future of Roque, who once aspired to be a Roman Catholic priest, is in peril after his sister-in-law was arrested by members of a new south Florida Elections Response Team.

Rita L. Picazo, who has been identified as Rogue's sister-in-law, was the first person arrested by the new team. She faces six felony counts for allegedly making illegal campaign contributions in the names of coworkers and then trying to cover up the scam.

Picazo's sister is married to Roque, according to published reports.

The contributions allowed Roque to reach a threshold and qualify for public financing in his campaign against incumbent Commission Natacha Seijas.

According to the Miami Herald, Roque has raised $28,000 in campaign contributions and qualified for $75,000 in matching public funds.

The election is in November.

Roque, who has never run for public office, has not been arrested, but a judge froze his campaign account.

Picazo was the first person arrested by the Elections Response Team, a joint effort by the Miami-Dade Office of Inspector General, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The team "investigates allegations of election fraud," authorities said in press release from the Inspector General's office.

More arrests are expected in the Picazo case, authorities said.

Picazo was charged with "providing indirect contributions in the names of coworkers to the Jorge Roque Campaign for County Commission," according to the statement.

"Picazo was also charged with Solicitation to Commit Perjury for requesting that her co-workers lie to investigators and prosecutors in an attempt to conceal the fraud," the statement said. "The investigation ... is on-going and additional arrests are expected."

Like many real estate and mortgage brokers, Roque runs his own Web site. On it he claims to "live and breathe real estate."

"You'll get honest answers," he says on the site. "Just ask."


Patrick Crowley is a political reporter and columnist and former business writer for The Cincinnati Enquirer. Email Patrick at: [email protected]

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