SUNLAND PARK, N.M. (KRQE) - Daniel Salinas, the man who came close to becoming Sunland Park's mayor , was back in court Monday for his third set of criminal charges. He is facing 18 counts of fraud and demanding illegal kickbacks, on top of extortion and bribery.
His latest arrest stems from allegations of using city money as his own slush fund. But on Monday, Dona Ana County District Attorney Amy Orlando also revealed Salinas could be linked to Mexican drug cartels.
"That is what we are hearing that Mr. Salinas has ties to the drug cartels," said Orlando. "We actually had a witness leave their own home and stayed some place else because they were so afraid of Mr. Salinas and his contacts."
The DA's office argued Salinas is dangerous and tried to keep him behind bars on a $1 million bond. Orlando said it is concerning Salinas has been able to pay the $55,000 he's needed to bail out of jail the last two times he's been arrested.
"The lifestyle that Mr. Salinas lives and knowing his only income was that of mayor pro term seems to substantiate some of those allegations," said Orlando.
Salinas' attorney said the $1 million bond was "unreasonably excessive," saying the DA has no evidence that Salinas is linked to the Mexican mafia.
"That is ludicrous," said Salinas' attorney Joshua Spencer. "I mean, they haven't given any indication of that."
Investigators believe late last year Salinas, who was interim mayor at the time, used money that was supposed to go towards a border crossing in Sunland Park on his mayoral campaign and to live it up while on an official trip to Mexico. The trip included frequent visits to strip clubs and brothels, according to a criminal complaint.
Those charges are on top of allegations that Salinas tried to force rival Gerardo Hernandez out of last mont's mayoral race with a racy video. Police said Salinas paid an operative to bring a stripper in from Mexico and to record Hernandez getting a lap dance.
Hernandez also told News 13 he's on edge and feeling threatened. Hernandez said people have been prowling around his house when he's not there.
"My daughter-in-law went out of the house to the store and she was certain she closed all the gates in the house as well as the back door in my storage room," said Hernandez. "When she came back from the store all the doors, both gates were opened and the storage room as well."
Hernandez said he's not sure if Salinas' people are behind it.
"(Whoever it is), they're trying to scare me, that's for sure," said Hernandez.
Orlando said the investigation into Salinas is not over yet. Her office is still looking into three city departments, including the local MVD. Orlando expects to file more charges against Salinas in the next few weeks.
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