Federal prosecutors have accused a former San Diego police detective and a Washington D.C.-based campaign consultant of using illegal money to try to influence local elections. NBC 7’s Omari Fleming has details of an FBI raid on a Coronado home tied to the scandal.
San Diego lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes, one of three men charged with conspiring to finance political campaigns using money from an illegal foreign source, is scheduled to appear in court Friday.
Cortes, 44, has been in custody since his arrest by the FBI Tuesday in Little Italy.
According to a complaint filed by the FBI and unsealed by a U.S. magistrate judge Tuesday, Cortes allegedly conspired with Ravneet Singh, CEO of electionmall.com, and former San Diego Police Department Detective Ernesto Encinas to funnel more than $500,000 into San Diego political races, mostly in 2012 and 2013.
In September 2013, Cortes allegedly met with a confidential informant to discuss possibly arranging additional campaign contributions from The Foreign National to a candidate running in San Diego’s 2013 special mayoral election, prosecutors allege in court documents.
City Councilmember David Alvarez confirmed Thursday that he returned a contribution to his 2013 mayoral campaign from Cortes. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported it was a $999 contribution the candidate had received in September.
“It’s not associated with the FBI investigation,” Alvarez told NBC 7 Thursday. “It’s still the right thing to do.”
“We want to be transparent, we want to be very clear, we want to be very open and that’s why I chose to do that,” Alvarez said.
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Interim Mayor Todd Gloria, Congressional candidate and former mayoral candidate Carl Demaio and U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas have already announced they are returning contributions from those named in the complaint.
No politicians have been accused of any wrongdoing.
Cortes faces a charge of conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States. If convicted, Cortes faces a maximum of five years in prison, plus three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
Singh and Encinas have also been arrested and charged in the scandal.