Lobbyist accused in campaign finance scandal has bond approved, could be released

Sister of Marco Polo Cortes puts up her home

SAN DIEGO - A key figure accused in a campaign finance scandal could be released from custody following a deal made with authorities.

A subdued Marco Polo Cortes was dressed in a white jail jumpsuit as he appeared before U. S. District Judge William Gallo Tuesday afternoon. It was the continuation of a detention hearing in his prosecution for violations of campaign donation laws.

Cortes has a poor track record with court appearances, having violated conditions of release 15 times when prosecuted for two driving-under-the-influence cases a few years ago.

Gallo wouldn't grant release last week, based on that history. He suggested having a relative put up a house -- someone who might be out on the streets if he breaks the rules -- might get his attention.

The defendant's sister, Lupita Cortes, signed a surety bond, putting up her home to win his freedom. She has $112,000 in equity, which she could lose if he bolts.

Cortes was arrested in connection with an alleged scheme to pump half a million dollars into San Diego elections, including the mayor's race.

He is reported to be one of at least three middle men funneling large sums of money from Mexican millionaire Susumo Azano into political action committees (PACs). Also charged are Ravneet Singh, owner of ElectionMall Inc.; and Ernesto Encinas, a retired San Diego police detective.

It is illegal for citizens of other countries to contribute to campaigns in the United States.

The prosecutor said Azano wanted to turn San Diego into Miami.

Records show Cortes meeting with mayoral candidate David Alvarez 10 times since the beginning of 2012. There is one face-to-face conference listed between Cortes and Alvarez's opponent in the mayoral race, Kevin Faulconer.

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