By Craig Gustafson
Jan. 22, 2014
The corruption case involving a Mexican businessman trying to illegally influence San Diego elections widened Wednesday as a City Hall lobbyist was added to the conspiracy charges and politicians rushed to return campaign contributions from those tainted by the scandal.
Marco Polo Cortes, 44, was arrested on a warrant Tuesday in Little Italy and appeared before a federal judge Wednesday on charges that he conspired to finance political campaigns with funds from an illegal foreign source. He faces up to five years in prison.
Also charged in a similar complaint released a day earlier are Ravneet Singh, owner of a Washington, D.C.-based campaign-services firm, and Ernesto Encinas, a former San Diego police detective who retired in 2009.
The Mexican businessman in question is Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, who owns a home in Coronado. He was not named in federal documents, but they included enough information to identify him. Cortes, Encinas and Singh are accused of funneling Azano’s money through shell companies and a straw donor to circumvent federal law which prohibits foreign nationals from contributing to campaigns at any level.
One of the biggest open questions of the scandal is why Azano spent more than $500,000 to try to influence San Diego elections. His money ended up helping the causes of District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, a Republican who lost the 2012 mayor’s race; Bob Filner, a Democrat who won that contest and later resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal; and an as-yet-unidentified federal candidate on the November 2012 ballot. Azano also tried to help former mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher, a Democrat, although there’s no evidence that he spent any money on Fletcher’s behalf or that Fletcher knew anything about it.
Foreign money, local campaigns
- Political corruption case grows
- Four SD pols return money tied to scandal
- Feds: Ex-cop wanted chief out
- Car dealer linked to funding scandal
- DA met with scandal figures
- Lobbyist charged in financing scheme
- Political ‘guru’ had many GOP clients
- ‘Foreign national’ clashed with Sempra
- Feds: Illegal money funneled to San Diego political races
- Figure at scandal’s center was bipartisan
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