Mexican Millionaire Says Feds Told Him To Flee Amid Political Scandal
A Mexican tycoon at the center of a San Diego campaign finance scandal said the government suggested last year he leave the country while he was under investigation
José Susumo Azano Matsura alleged that a person working undercover for the federal government — through a third party — said he should flee the U.S., according to court papers filed this week.
The government refused to respond to Azano’s allegation directly.
“This is not a motion, it is a soap box,” said federal prosecutor Robert Huie during a Tuesday bail hearing for Azano.
Azano said the alleged suggestion to flee came during a search of his home early last year, and one month before he was indicted and arrested on a campaign law violation.
He is accused of illegally channeling $600,000 into the campaigns of San Diego candidates, including former Mayor Bob Filner and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis in their 2012 mayoral bids. It is illegal for foreign nationals to contribute to U.S. campaigns.
Azano also alleged that retired San Diego police Detective Ernesto Encinas bribed police.
Encinas used to work for Azano and was accused of conspiring with his former boss to funnel the foreign money into local campaigns. He has since pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme.
Encinas’ lawyer, Jeremy Warren, vehemently denied that Encinas had paid bribes to police.
“I have no idea where that comes from,” Warren said. “Ernie did not do that.”
Meanwhile, Azano's lawyer, Knut Johnson, argued in court Tuesday that his client's $5 million bail should be reduced to $2.5 million. He said the case no longer resembles what the government presented when it got the higher bail amount.
“A year ago, it seemed a lot more ominous,” Johnson said. “It seemed like a $5 million case.”
Prosecutors agreed the case had changed in the past year but only in its severity. Azano faced one campaign law violation. He is now charged with 25 counts of wrongdoing.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Mitchell Dembin did not reduce Azano’s bond.