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Politics

New Indictment Issued Against Trio Accused Of Illegal Campaign Donations

José Susumo Azano Matsura speaks to 10News during a 2011 interview.
10News
José Susumo Azano Matsura speaks to 10News during a 2011 interview.
All of the background information on campaign contributions illegally funneled from a wealthy Mexican businessman to local candidates.

Azano Superseding Indictment
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A superseding indictment handed down in federal court Tuesday alleges Mexican businessman Jose Azano Matsura and two others conspired to illegally funnel his money into the campaigns of three San Diego mayoral candidates and a political party committee supporting federal candidates.

The indictment names Azano, social media consultant Ravneet Singh and his Washington, D.C.-based campaign services company, ElectionMall Inc., and San Diego lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes, 44.

The 26-count indictment details about $600,000 in donations that federal prosecutors say were illegal. According to federal law, it is illegal for a foreign national to donate to political campaigns in the United States.

The indictment lists 20 instances in which various defendants allegedly falsified campaign finance records with the San Diego city clerk, the Federal Election Commission or the California secretary of state.

Singh and ElectionMall are additionally charged with a single count of bribery for allegedly offering $1,000 to a federal official in exchange for confidential and classified information between December 2013 and January 2014.

The defendants on multiple occasions failed to identify Azano as the true source of campaign donations or concealed the donation altogether, the government alleges.

Azano, 48, is also charged with being an alien in possession of a firearm. Federal law prohibits possession of a firearms, ammunition or explosives by an alien who is unlawfully in the United States or who has been admitted to the United States under a non-immigrant visa.

The indictment alleges that members of the conspiracy would survey candidates for various elective offices to determine which ones to support. Prosecutors allege Azano would then seek a private meeting with a candidate, and his co-conspirators would design secret methods of financing that candidate's campaign.

They allegedly used various methods to inject cash into campaigns, including straw donors and unreported in-kind donations. Azano would also use companies and an independent expenditure committee of his own creation to support favored candidates, the indictment alleges.

Singh, 41, his corporation, Cortes, and retired San Diego police Detective Ernesto "Ernie" Encinas were first charged in January with trying to hide the source of the large donations to federal and local campaigns, including the 2012 mayoral campaigns of District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Bob Filner.

Court papers allege Encinas wanted the next mayor to fire the chief of police and replace him with a person of Encinas' choosing in exchange for financial help supplied by Azano.

Azano, Singh, ElectionMall and Cortes were initially indicted a month later.

Encinas, who also owned a private security firm, pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy and filing a false tax return.

Marc Allen Chase, co-owner of a La Jolla luxury car dealership, pleaded guilty in March to eight misdemeanor counts of campaign finance crimes, including conspiracy, aiding and abetting contributions by a foreign national and making a "straw" contribution in connection with a federal campaign.