San Diego Political Probe: Tracing the Money

by Brad Racino and Joe Yerardi | inewsource

UPDATE (1/24/14): This post has been updated to reflect contributions from Cortes and Encinas to Chula Vista City Councilwoman Mary Salas.

San Diego’s newest scandal involving a “conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States” broke Tuesday after a sealed federal court complaint was made public. It involved Ernesto Encinas, a retired San Diego detective, Ravneet Singh, a DC-based “campaign guru,” an unnamed “foreign national,” an unnamed “straw man,” unnamed informants and a slew of politicians only referred to in the complaint as numbered “Candidates.”

In short, the U.S. Attorney’s office is alleging that a lot of money was funneled into San Diego politics illegally during the 2012, 2013 and 2014 election cycles.

inewsource has been digging deep into public records and campaign contributions over the last 48 hours to uncover the details. Here’s what we’ve found involving the main players, as well as new information about known associates of the men at the center of this investigation:

Marc Chase

The La Jolla luxury-car dealer, who inewsource has confirmed to be “the Straw Donor” in the federal complaint, has made several contributions to campaigns. So, too, have his associates.

—On Sept. 27, 2012, Chase gave $120,000 to an independent committee supporting Bob Filner through one of Chase’s companies called South Beach Acquisitions LLC.

—On Sept. 30, 2012, Chase gave $30,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

—On Oct. 4, 2012, Chase gave $30,000 to the San Diego County Democratic Party through a different LLC called West Coast Acquisitions. There were two donations on the same day, one for $10,000 and one for $20,000.

—A salesman at Chase’s car dealership, Symbolic Motor Car Company, gave $500 to Bonnie Dumanis’ candidate-controlled committee on Jan. 2, 2012.

Jose Susumo Azano Matsura

The eccentric Mexican billionaire, who inewsource has confirmed to be “the Foreign National” in the FBI complaint, made contributions through shell companies. So, too, have his associates.

—On May 9, 2012, Azano, through his Airsam N492RM, LLC, gave $100,000 to the independent committee supporting Bonnie Dumanis. On Nov. 28, 2012, the committee returned $3,000 of that money.

—On May 15, 2013, Elizabeth Lugo, a co-agent on two of Susumo’s companies — Flight Maintenance Solution, LLC, and Management Security Adviser, LLC — gave $700 to Bonnie Dumanis’ candidate-controlled committee.

—On June 5, 2012, Margarita Hester De Azano, a co-agent for a different Susumo company — Beverly Hills Financial Services, LLC — gave $700 to the same committee.

Lugo and De Azano are registered in San Diego County’s voter registration database at the same address in Coronado. inewsource attempted to contact both, but the numbers listed were disconnected.

Ernesto Encinas

The retired San Diego police detective, who wants to see SDPD Chief Lansdowne out of the agency, has made a number of contributions. So, too, have his associates.

—On March 9, 2012, Encinas gave $500 to Todd Gloria’s candidate-controlled committee for City Council.

—On May 16, 2012, he gave $3,000 to the independent expenditure committee supporting Dumanis’ mayoral campaign.

—On Oct. 6, 2012, he gave $500 to Bob Filner’s candidate-controlled committee.

—On Oct. 26, 2012, he gave $500 to San Diego County Democratic Party.

-On Jan. 30, 2013, he gave $300 to Chula Vista City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Mary Salas’ candidate-controlled committee. Though the donation was made in 2013, the name of Salas’ committee is “Mary Salas for City Council 2012. Salas did not respond to a request for comment.

—On June 5, 2013, he gave $700 to Dumanis’ DA re-election campaign through her candidate-controlled committee.

—On June 5, 2013, Sharon Encinas — who shares the same address as Ernesto — gave $700 to Dumanis’ DA re-election campaign through her candidate-controlled committee.

—Ernesto also gave $3,500 to Congressman Juan Vargas’ candidate-controlled committee in two separate payments, one for $2,500 on June 30, 2011 and one on Aug. 16, 2012 for $1,000.

Marco Polo Cortes

The San Diego lobbyist, who was a former Chula Vista planning commissioner, has been arrested by the FBI in connection to the scandal.

—On Nov. 30, 2011, Cortes gave $250 to Congressman Juan Vargas’ candidate-controlled committee.

—On May 24, 2012, he gave $250 to the same committee.

—On June 29, 2012, he gave $500 to the same committee.

-On Jan. 30, 2013, he gave $300 to Chula Vista City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Mary Salas’ candidate-controlled committee. Though the donation was made in 2013, the name of Salas’ committee is “Mary Salas for City Council 2012. Salas did not respond to a request for comment.

The details are still rolling out, so stick with inewsource for more news as the investigation continues.

inewsource investigative researcher Emily Burns contributed to this report.

shadow-ornament

We'll let you know when big things happen.

About Lorie Hearn:

Lorie Hearn is the founder and executive director of inewsource.