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Thread: Judge sentences Azano to three years in federal prison

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  1. #1
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Judge sentences Azano to three years in federal prison

    Judge sentences Azano to three years in federal prison

    Greg Moran
    Contact Reporter

    A wealthy Mexican businessman convicted of making illegal campaign contributions in a public corruption scandal that roiled San Diego’s political establishment, was sentenced to three years in federal prison Friday.

    Jose Susumo Azano Matsura was convicted on 35 charges of making $600,000 in illegal contributions in the 2012 mayor’s race during a five-week trial in September 2016. The jury didn’t reach a verdict on a charge that he illegally possessed a firearm, but he was tried again on that charge in July and was convicted.


    He was accused of funneling cash and campaign services to the campaigns or committees supporting then District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and former Mayor Bob Filner.


    Azano made his fortune building a Mexico City-based business that developed surveillance technology and cyber security products that were sold to the government in Mexico and elsewhere. His lawyer said in a sentencing memorandum that while wealthy he was “not close to being the billionaire as alleged by the government.”


    He also wrote that Azano has assisted both Mexican and U.S. law enforcement over the years to secure the release of citizens of both countries who had been kidnapped in Mexico. He wrote Azano had helped authorities rescue 17 U.S. citizens and many Mexicans.

    It was that work and the danger it posed for Azano that led him to move his family to a mansion in Coronado and eventually hire a retired San Diego police detective, Ernie Encinas, to provide security.


    Encinas was the conduit who introduced Azano to local politics, and served as the go-between from Azano to the campaigns. He eventually cooperated with federal investigators in the probe, recording conversations and providing information. He has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.


    Prosecutors said Azano clandestinely injected himself and his money into the mayor’s race in order to “buy a mayor” who would help him develop bay front property in a “Miami West” project. Defense lawyers scoffed at that notion and said there was little hard evidence to support it.


    He used straw donors, shell holding companies and businesses controlled by March Chase, a La Jolla car dealer who also pleaded guilty in the case, to hide his donations. “Every penny was Azano’s,” prosecutors wrote, “but not a single penny was contributed in his name.”

    In all he provided $100,000 to an independent committee supporting Dumanis, $120,000 to Filner, and $60,000 combined to the county Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.


    He paid another $75,000 for the services of Ravneet Singh, a campaign services expert adept at social media and Internet based campaigning.

    http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/...027-story.html

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    Former lobbyist gets 4 months in prison for role in Azano campaign finance scandal

    Greg Moran Contact Reporter

    A former San Diego City Hall lobbyist who admitted funneling campaign contributions from a Mexican tycoon to candidates in the 2012 mayor’s race was sentenced to four months in prison Monday.

    Marco Polo Cortes, 48, was once a well-regarded City Hall insider who had a successful lobbying business. In November, he pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges of conspiracy, making campaign contributions in the name of another and obstruction of justice.


    The sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Michael Anello was the last to be made in the long-running federal investigation into campaign financing in the 2012 campaign, and the role of Mexican businessman Jose Susumo Azano Matsura.


    Azano was convicted in 2016 of orchestrating a scheme to funnel money into the campaigns of candidates Bonnie Dumanis and Bob Filner, via straw donors, independent committees and in-kind campaign services donations.


    Though Azano bankrolled the operation, the fact he was the source of the money was not revealed. And as a Mexican citizen with no legal status in the U.S. he was barred by federal law from contributing to campaigns.
    Azano was convicted of nearly three dozen charges of campaign violations and conspiracy and was sentenced to three years in prison. Campaign consultant Ravneet Singh was also convicted at the same trial and is serving a 15-month sentence. Three others involved in the scheme were placed on probation.

    In his plea, Cortes admitted his role in channeling a $30,000 contribution to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to support the re-election campaign of Rep. Juan Vargas. In 2012, Cortes joined up with retired San Diego Detective Ernie Encinas who was working to help Filner’s ultimately successful mayoral campaign.


    Nancy Rosenfeld, Cortes’s lawyer, told Anello that Cortes was a bit player in the scheme. He came on board long after Azano had launched his efforts in late 2011, and had a limited role. “Marco made introductions,” she wrote in a sentencing memorandum.


    But prosecutors said that his role was not minimal. Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip Halpern said Cortes stayed with the conspiracy for more than a year, well into 2013. And after he entered it, the amount of illegal campaign contributions to the election increased — “it was almost campaign finance on steroids,” he told Anello.


    While Rosenfeld asked for probation, Anello concluded that Cortes did not play a minor role, and what he admitted to doing warranted prison time. He said that Cortes admitted to intentionally conspiring with others to violate federal election laws.


    The judge initially considered a six-month term — less than the eight months sought by the government — but settled on four months, directing that it be served in a federal prison and not on home detention.


    Anello said that the charge of funneling foreign money into domestic campaign was “a very very serious insult to our democratic electoral system.”

    http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/...430-story.html

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