The judge who set the bond amount for an Arizona mayor at the center of a corruption scandal failed to disclose that she’s friends with the disgraced lawmaker, whose bail has subsequently been revoked by a higher court.
Prior to the bail fiasco, the case made national headlines this week because the magnitude of corruption is unusually large for a small U.S. town (Nogales) of about 20,000 residents. The city’s handsome young mayor, 29-year-old Octavio Garcia-Von Borstel, has been charged with multiple counts of bribery, theft, fraud and money laundering. The mayor’s father has also been charged with similar crimes.
Garcia-Von Borstel solicited bribes from Nogales businesses in exchange for his influence in obtaining city contracts, prosecutors say. The mayor’s father, an agent for Western Union, is accused of fraudulently reporting money orders worth $3.2 million that were cashed by the mayor and deposited into an account he controlled. The father and son withdrew more than half a million dollars from the account before it was frozen by authorities.
The small-town mayor’s lavish lifestyle drew attention because he only made $50 a month and had no other job. Earlier this year Garcia-Von Borstel got in trouble for charging trips to Las Vegas and Mexico on his city-issued credit card, which was subsequently revoked by the Nogales City Council. The unscrupulous mayor was also stripped of a city-owned sports utility vehicle that had been assigned to him upon taking office in 2007.
Garcia-Von Borstel’s bail was originally set at $250,000, even though prosecutors had requested more than double that amount. Before the bond was posted news reports surfaced of a conflict involving the judge who set the lower bond amount. It turns out that she had previously recused herself from a traffic case involving the mayor because they are friends. Prosecutors appealed to a superior court which temporarily revoked the bail until another hearing is scheduled.