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Obama campaign returning funds tied to Mexican fugitive

U.S. President Obama talks at the 60th annual National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton hotel in Washington
U.S. President Obama talks at the 60th annual National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton hotel in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's re-election campaign is returning more than $200,000 in donations from the family of a fugitive casino magnate linked to violence and corruption in Mexico who has been seeking a pardon, Obama's campaign confirmed on Tuesday.

"More than 1.3 million Americans have donated to the campaign and we constantly review those contributions for any issues," Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in an email after a New York Times report on the decision appeared late on Monday.

"On the basis of the questions that have been raised, we will return the contributions from these individuals and from any other donors they brought to the campaign," LaBolt said.

Brothers Carlos and Alberto Rojas Cardona, who live and work in Chicago, began raising money for the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee last fall, the New York Times reported, adding that neither had a history of prior political donations.

Their brother Juan Jose Rojas Cardona, also known as Pepe Cardona, jumped bail in Iowa in 1994 and disappeared, fleeing drug and fraud charges in the United States, the New York Times said.

The money Alberto Cardona raised put him in the upper tiers of fund-raisers known as bundlers, according to a list released last month by the campaign, the Times reported.

A State Department cable in 2009 said Pepe Cardona was suspected of orchestrating the assassination of a business rival and making illegal campaign donations to Mexican officials, according to the article.

The New York Times cited Obama campaign officials as saying that said most of the donations of about $200,000 came from the Cardonas brothers themselves and other relatives. The campaign was identifying other donations, believed to total less than $100,000, that was bundled from other people, the newspaper said.

Last year, brothers Carlos Cardona arranged for the former chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party to seek a pardon from the governor for Pepe Cardona, The New York Times reported, citing Iowa prosecutors. The report said no pardon was forthcoming.

(Reporting By JoAnne Allen; editing by Christopher Wilson)