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Mexican Multi-Millionaire Charged in San Diego Campaign Finance Scandal

Susumo Azano wanted to buy influence to help build up the San Diego bayfront, prosecutors allege

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Krentz Johnson, Courtroom Artist

    A Mexican businessman and multi-millionaire, accused of helping funnel more than $500,000 into San Diego political campaigns, made his first federal court appearance Thursday.

    Jose Susumo Azano, 48, pleaded not guilty one count of illegal contributions by a foreign national.

    Susumo Azano was arrested Wednesday morning at his Coronado home, FBI officials confirm. 

    Mayoral Candidates Met with Cortes

    [DGO] Mayoral Candidates Met with Cortes
    NBC 7 talks to mayoral candidate David Alvarez about money his campaign received and meetings he's had with a key player of a major campaign finance scandal. NBC 7's Candice Nguyen reports.

    The prosecutor asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Mitchell D. Dembin not to set bail. In addition to being a flight risk, the prosecutor argued that Susumo Azano is also a danger to other witnesses in the case.

    The defense argued that Susumo Azano should be allowed to stay in his Coronado home. The defendant's pilot agreed to give the key to Susumo Azano's private jet to the court so he could not use the jet to flee to U.S.

    Car Dealer Gets Lawyer Amid Scandal

    [DGO]Car Dealer Gets Lawyer Amid Scandal
    A La Jolla car dealer implicated in a campaign finance scandal has hired one of San Diego's best-known criminal defense lawyers. NBC 7 has learned that attorney Michael Pancer now represents Marc Chase, owner of Symbolic Motor Cars. Prosecutors say a Mexican citizen pumped more than $500,000 into local campaigns, a violation of U.S. election laws. He also loves fast, expensive cars, which may have cemented his relationship with the car dealer. NBC 7’s Megan Tevrizian has more.

    After hearing both sides, Magistrate Judge Dembin set bail at $5 million. Susumo Azano will be confined to his home with a GPS monitoring device and cannot go to Mexico for any reason. However, the prosecution could appeal the magistrate's decision.

    Prosecutors claim Susumo Azano broke federal law by making contributions to U.S. elections using foreign funds, saying this could be "one of the largest (election) frauds in U.S. history."

    A federal prosecutor previously said Susumo Azano had hoped that local politicians, including former Mayor Bob Filner, would help him in his quest to build up the San Diego bayfront, at the foot of Broadway.

    Susumo Azano is the fourth person charged in the investigation into recent San Diego's mayoral and Congressional campaigns.

    Lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes, former San Diego police detective Ernesto Encinas and D.C.-based campaign services executive Ravneet Singh also face charges in connection with the case.

    NBC 7 has learned Cortes met with both Mayor-elect Kevin Faulconer and City Councilman David Alvarez who ran for mayor within the last three years.

    Key Players in the Campaign Finance Scandal

    Susumo Azano owns a surveillance software company in Mexico and maintains a villa in Coronado.

    If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.