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Illegal Campaign Cash Tied To 4 Prominent San Diego Politicians

Above: From left: San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis; Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.); former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner; and former special election 2013 mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher.

The owner of a campaign services company is accused of conspiring with a former San Diego Police detective to illegally funnel hundreds of thousand of dollars to local candidates from a wealthy Mexican businessman.

Credit: Facebook

Retired San Diego police detective Ernesto Encinas is the head of security for Mexican national Jose Susumo Azano Matsura.

Credit: Ravi Singh/Wikipedia

Ravneet Singh is shown outside the U.S. Capitol in this undated photo.

Under federal law, foreign nationals are banned from contributing to American political campaigns.

Federal prosecutors said Ravneet Singh, owner of ElectionMall in Washington — along with former Detective Ernesto Encinas — knew the donations were illegal but said the two men used a “series of increasingly complex techniques,” including shell companies, to hide nearly $300,000 in campaign contributions.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement:

Singh conspired with former San Diego Police detective Ernesto Encinas and others to funnel more than $500,000 of illegal foreign money into San Diego municipal and federal campaigns, primarily in 2012 and 2013. Singh’s company, ElectionMall, Inc., was also charged as a defendant.

Prosecutors said the contributions were made by a wealthy Mexican businessman. Federal officials declined to name the businessman, but KPBS confirmed through a confidential source he is Jose Susomo Azano Matsura. The donations from Azano were first reported in 2012 by San Diego CityBeat.

KPBS has also independently confirmed through the same source that the candidates were San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher who ran for mayor in 2012 and in the special mayoral election last year.

A complaint unsealed in court Tuesday states that in 2011 the businessman became interested in influencing San Diego electoral politics. Prosecutors said Encinas made inquiries and learned that foreign nationals cannot donate to U.S. political campaigns.

According to the complaint and sources, Azano and Encinas then created an independent expenditure committee. Such committees can be used to pay for political advertising. The government stated the businessman gave $100,000 to the committee through an American shell company.

Prosecutors said ultimately the committee made $114,000 in expenditures to an unidentified person known only Candidate 1. KPBS has confirmed that candidate was Dumanis.

According to public filings, the committee spent about $86,000 on mailers and related services between May 20-31 in 2012.

The government said email records indicate that in early 2012, Azano agreed to pay Singh and his company ElectionMall $100,000 for social media services to help "Candidate 1." The complaint states that Singh, Encinas and others agreed not to report the campaign-related spending in a public filing.

Dumanis said through a campaign consultant Tuesday her campaign followed the law and didn't coordinate with the independent committee.

Fletcher has said he never took money from people named in the complaint.

Filner has not responded to a request for comment.

The complaint states that the businessman gave to other candidates in addition to those who ran for mayor in 2012 and in last year's special election. KPBS has confirmed that one of the candidates is Congressman Juan Vargas. His office has not responded to a request for comment.

On Wednesday, it was reported Vargas would return approximately $3,500 in campaign funding.

San Diego interim Mayor Todd Gloria and former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio also are each returning a $500 donation stemming from the investigation.

The U.S. Attorney's office said in a press release that Encinas wanted the next mayor to fire San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne and pick his replacement.

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Avatar for user 'ric_carson'

ric_carson | January 22, 2014 at 8:41 a.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

$114,000! Why won't they disclose who the candidate was? Sounds like a partial cover-up to me.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 22, 2014 at 11:40 a.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

Jose Susumo Azano. Why couldn't you get the name?

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | January 22, 2014 at 12:49 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

Why can't we fix the pot holes in our streets?

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Avatar for user 'dvhoran'

dvhoran | January 22, 2014 at 2:09 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

I didn't know that foreign nationals are prohibited from giving to IECs. I thought they were only disallowed to donated directly to campaigns. I guess Citizens United is very slightly less of a disaster than I understood it to be.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | January 22, 2014 at 5:18 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

We finally have clear evidence of Mexicans influencing elections in San Diego. Not only that but bribing mayoral candidates to appoint their handpicked police chief.

Hmm, I wonder why police chief. Interesting.

And nothing from the left wing crowd. Strange, they usually scream about corruption. Just mention Chris Christie and you'll need ear plugs. But now, so hypocritically quiet.

Why is that left wingers? Did your political idols let you down again? They do it so frequently, yet you still eat out of their hands. Why?

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 22, 2014 at 8:44 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

CA OFF, you mean like FAUX NEWS being silent about the puckish Christie????

No, not quiet at all, but the only Mexican citizen I see here, is the businessman Jose Susumo Azano Matsura (whom I am certain some pathetic who guy dubbed himself BAJA CALIFORNIA DEFENDER is calling for his deportation to Japan on some Mexican news website LOL), and he is not even the proposed beneficiary in this scandal, but only the funds provider! His motives? Mmmaybe they have something to do with SEMPRA Energy? But our resident Nativist, CA Offender ignores that and prefers to concentrate on his citizenship.

Encinas, a US citizen and former cop, is one of the beneficiaries here as well as a middle-man. For you to describe this retired SDPD officer as "Mexican," is wholly inaccurate for I was NOT AWARE that the SDPD HIRED Mexican citizens. As for the levitating Ravi, he is ethnically sub-continental Indian. Whether he is a US citizen or has dual citizenship, I don't know and I don't care. NOR does the FBI care in this matter. The UT describes him as "nonpartisan."

The other four, are VERY prominent gringo politicians and beneficiaries of the illegal contributions: 1) the very Waspish Repuke turned opportunist Fletcher; 2) The disappointing Vargas; 3) the much-maligned Jewish-American Filner; and last but certainly not least, Bonnie D, fire-breathing DA, Repuke candidate, and prominent member of the LGBT "community."

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | January 23, 2014 at 10:16 a.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago


I'm not a member of the right and do not watch Faux News. Never have, never will.

I also love how you lead with a Christie insult, say "not quiet at all" and then promptly change the subject. Your hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Although, to be fair, you're just following the Leftist Manual like an obedient foot soldier.

Chapter 1, Section 1, Paragraph 1 (the most important leftist rule):

"Do not ever criticize a leftist politician, financier, or agent in any circumstance no matter how clear their subterfuge may become. The American people must not see through our progressive facade or the war will be lost."

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 23, 2014 at 12:17 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

You claim not be a member of the Right wing yet you constantly jump to conclusions about Democrats and liberals in general talk and talk about the virtues of Social Darwinist public policy. That is completely contradictory. You call me a hypocrite meaning what? That I am actually Right wing???!!!

so mmmaybe you're a hardline Centrist??? Or a pick and choose guy whatever is politically convenient for me?

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 23, 2014 at 12:26 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

Oh, and I didn't bring up Christie. You did. And of course, you say nothing about your errors and omissions that I point out in the previous post, instead you choose to speak like a Teebircher.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | January 23, 2014 at 4:19 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

I don't support Social Darwinism. Not sure where you got that from.

Democrats refuse to acknowledge corruption in their own party just like Republicans. That is an obvious clear fact and I consistently lambaste both parties for it. I'm certainly not jumping to any conclusions there.

This case clearly shows how deep corruption is imbedded in campaign finance and unveils Mexico's role in it.

If we don't defend California, in a matter of decades we will resemble the sad political, social, and economic reality of Mexico and corruption like this will be so common it won't even make the news.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | January 24, 2014 at 8:43 a.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago


Campaign funding is a cesspool and all parties are corrupt. With that out of the way, explain why this is so much worse than AIPAC's efforts or any of the other lobbying that takes place in Washington. The Supreme Court endorsed this type of behavior with the Citizens United case.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 24, 2014 at 9:26 a.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

JOHN MARKKK asks, "why can't we get the pot hole filled in our streets."

Because guys like you balk at paying their fair share of taxes.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 24, 2014 at 9:32 a.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

CA Off, how do you get the nerve to deny that? Can't you even be intellectually honest with yourself??? Your positions on labor, the homeless, social mobility and immigration are clearly all Social Darwinist!

And it is NOT "Mexico's role." Azano is not a member of the Mexican Government--either Federal or state. He is a private citizen. Therefore, it is NOT "Mexico's role." It is very different compared to what DLR points out about AIPAC which has also been around much longer. Whatever Azano may have done only pales in comparison to AIPAC! Ah, but yes, with few exceptions, AIPAC always gets a free pass!

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | January 24, 2014 at 10:26 a.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago


I never said this case is worse. The corruption in DC is FAR worse than anything at the state or local level. It is so institutionalized that if you are not horribly corrupt to start with you will go nowhere. The honest are left in the gutter while the wicked run the US government.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | January 24, 2014 at 10:50 a.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago


1st, taxes are not the reason potholes are going unfilled.

2nd, what are my positions on homeless, social mobility, and immigration? You have absolutely no idea because you're too busy screaming at everyone to listen. I will assure you I am not a Social Darwinist.

3rd, Azano may not be a member of the Mexican government but he (as reported by KPBS) is a "legend" in Mexico who "has a reputation as a billionaire who reportedly moves in high government circles."

Another debate failure for Missionfailed. You're off to a very bad start this year.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 24, 2014 at 11 a.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

1. Hyperbole directed at John Markkk.

2. "The author surveys how considerably this new worldview shaped racism and imperialism around the century’s turn, especially through Anglo-Saxonism. Acknowledging the long history of American racism before the 1870s, Hofstadter notes, “Although Darwinism was not the primary source of the belligerent ideology and dogmatic racism of the late nineteenth century, it did become a new instrument in the hands of the theorists of race and struggle” (172). John Fiske, Teddy Roosevelt, Josiah Strong, and others used Darwinism to justify American racial and expansion efforts.'

3. So he "circles" within the Gov but is NOT an elected or appointed official. It would be as stupid as saying that Ravi Singh here represents the US govt.

4. Crickets on AIPAC.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 24, 2014 at 12:13 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

Also with a house in expensive Coronado, Senor Azano may even be a permanent resident status.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | January 24, 2014 at 12:18 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

Yes, race and imperialism played a major role in politics and expansion in American history as it did in every country on Earth. Yes, Social Darwinism was an instrument in that. What does it have to do with my policies? Nothing.

Do you have to be an elected member of a government to control it? Come on, by bringing up AIPAC, you understand that concept well. Money is power and a billionaire in a 3rd world country like Mexico is VERY powerful.

BTW, I don't support AIPAC in any way. Nor do I support any foreign government being given special intelligence, military, economic, or political access. AIPAC is just one of the thousands of layers of corruption that make up the US government.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 26, 2014 at 8:18 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

Guess who is on district attorney Bonnie Dumanis's endorsement list for her current election campaign? Aaron Feldman, head of Sunroad Enterprises, which seemingly can't stay out of trouble. There is now an investigation of Sunroad's $100,000 payment when it was seeking an easement. Former mayor Bob Filner is on the hot seat on that one. Sunroad's Tom Story, a former top city official, was involved in the passing of the money on behalf of Sunroad.

Both Filner and Dumanis reportedly received laundered money from Mexico in the 2012 election. Dumanis has admitted meeting the alleged donor, Azano Matsura, in his Coronado home. Donations from foreigners are not permitted in U.S. elections.

The controversy brings to mind Dumanis's relationship with Feldman in 2007 during the term of former city attorney Mike Aguirre. Sunroad had constructed a building that both the state and Federal Aviation Administration said was too high for safety, since it was near Montgomery Field. Feldman had put on fundraisers and raised a bundle for former mayor Jerry Sanders, who, of course, was fighting to help his donor.

Aguirre, agreeing with the state and the U.S. government, wanted something done about the building. The Union-Tribune's editorial page — along with one reporter — were trying to make heroes of Sanders, Story, and Feldman, and a devil of Aguirre for wanting to enforce the law.

Believing that Story had contacted his former employees at the city illegally, Aguirre got San Diego superior court judge George "Woody" Clarke to approve a search warrant of Sunroad. But police chief William Lansdowne refused to let his officers do the search.

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Avatar for user 'RONNIERAYGUN'

RONNIERAYGUN | January 27, 2014 at 1:43 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago


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