Mexican millionaire accused of illegally funneling $600,000 into local campaigns
SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A Mexican millionaire accused of funneling $600,000
into San Diego political campaigns pleaded not guilty Thursday to a federal charge
of campaign contributions by a foreign national.
Jose Azano Matsura was arrested Wednesday by the FBI, and an indictment
was unsealed Thursday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Perry moved to detain Azano, telling
Magistrate Judge Mitchell Dembin that the defendant was a flight risk and a
danger if released.
Perry said Azano is a Mexican citizen and has only a border-crossing
card that was set to be revoked by the U.S. State Department.
The prosecutor alleged Azano was at the center of a large scale fraud,
possibly one of the biggest in San Diego County history, if not the country,
and argued that Azano's alleged actions were a threat to the political election
system in the United States.
The prosecutor said witnesses told authorities that Azano referred to
his ability to have people killed, and a loaded gun was found last month in a
search of Azano's home.
But defense attorney Knut Johnson said Azano wouldn't abandon his family
— who are U.S. citizens — and would stay in San Diego to fight the charges.
Dembin allowed Azano to post a $5 million bond, to be secured by the
equity in one of his two homes in Coronado.
Marco Polo Cortes, a local lobbyist, and Ravneet Singh, the owner of the
Washington, D.C.-based campaign services company ElectionMall, are also
charged in the case.
A federal grand jury returned an indictment against Cortes, Singh,
ElectionMall and former San Diego Police Department Detective Ernesto Encinas
after the three were arrested and charged in a complaint filed last month.
Last week, Encinas waived his right requiring prosecutors to present
their case to the grand jury.
Cortes, Singh and Encinas are accused of trying to hide the source of
the large donations to local campaigns, including the 2012 mayoral campaigns of
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Bob Filner.
It is illegal for non-citizens to contribute to U.S. election campaigns.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said the donor — Azano — wanted to turn San
Diego's bayfront into a West Coast version of Miami.