Waechter charged with felony in case involving Ramirez

Robert Waechter/Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

Robert Waechter, 70, of Siesta Key, a former chairman of the Sarasota County Republican Party and a member of the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority, has been charged with a third-degree felony in connection with a fraudulent campaign contribution.

According to a report from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, Waechter turned himself in today, Dec. 14, on a charge of Criminal Use of Personal Identification Information.

He invoked his rights and did not provide a statement, the report added.

Lourdes Ramirez, president of the Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations, reported to the Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 15 that she had received a thank you note from the Keith Fitzgerald campaign for a $200 contribution she had not made. A New College professor and a Democrat, Fitzgerald challenged U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, for the District 16 congressional seat in the Nov. 6 election.

Ramirez told deputies she felt someone had stolen her identity, according to the Sheriff’s Office report.

A Sheriff’s Office investigator was able to use surveillance video from a Sweetbay store in Sarasota and an IP address to connect Waechter with the purchase of a VISA card used to make the $200 campaign contribution to the Fitzgerald campaign on Oct. 2, according to the report.

Waechter also allegedly used the same credit card to make a $35 campaign contribution to Democrat Liz Alpert’s campaign. It is not clear from the report whether that contribution also was in Ramirez’ name.

Alpert ran against Republican incumbent Ray Pilon of Sarasota for the District 72 Florida House seat in the 2012 campaign.

Waechter is a director of the Siesta Key Association, which Ramirez served as president for several years before being elected to the CONA post.

Waechter also holds a seat on the Sarasota County Tourist Development Council.