More suspected players in campaign scheme revealed - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

More suspected players in campaign scheme revealed

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - The political scandal in San Diego is considered to be something played out in T. V dramas but as the federal investigation unfolds a political attorney says the ethical people in the case appear to be the candidates.

"That is quite a bit of money by San Diego standards," said political attorney Pamela Wilson.

The FBI outlines in a federal complaint a Mexican businessman illegally funneled more than $500,000 into local races.

The "Foreign International" was not identified by agents but he is known as Jose Susumo Azano Matsura. The FBI says he does not have legal permanent residency in the United States.

When CBS News 8 went to his home in Coronado a man guarding the property got on the intercom and a woman told him Azano was not home and the family didn't want to speak to us.

As we were there a man was seen sneaking into a side gate.

Prosecutors argue Azano worked with retired police officer Ernesto Encinas, "campaign guru" Ravneet Singh and San Diego lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes.

They are suspected of working together to give money to political action committees and when that wouldn't' work they went through a third man.

The FBI alleges the trio also worked with a man named "Straw Donor" who has been identified by the San Diego Union Tribune as La Jolla's luxury car dealership owner Marc Chase with Symbolic Motor Car Company.

The alleged foreign money totals more than $500,00 for the 2012 mayoral and congressional elections.

"It's worth following; it's our own little house of cards or political dramas," said Wilson.

She says this case can be educational for future candidates and voters to better understand elections laws and campaign finance.

The complaint states in part, "A representative of the campaign e-mailed Cortes a link to the Federal Election Commission's pamphlet about the prohibition against foreign national contributions and expenditures."

"There is a positive message here that the candidates know the rules and when confronted with an overt attempt to break the rules they are refusing the money," Wilson added.

The chairwoman for the San Diego County Democratic Party, Francine Busby issued a statement in reaction to the allegations:

"This week we've all learned of a bizarre campaign finance corruption case in San Diego - a complex effort to support unwitting candidates of both parties by circumventing contribution laws. The San Diego County Democratic Party has learned only through subsequent news reporting that a local business owner who made a contribution to us in 2012 was allegedly involved the scheme. Beyond receiving a check from his company at that time, none of us here had even heard of that person or any of the others implicated in this case. We stand ready to return the contribution or direct it to the State Treasury, depending on which is more appropriate as we learn more about the case through both our own investigation and the ongoing prosecution. We call on the perpetrators to be brought to justice as quickly as possible and will fully assist the U.S. Attorney's Office in getting to the bottom of this case. "We are outraged and saddened that yet another scandal has undermined confidence in the political process in San Diego. The San Diego County Democratic Party is vigilant and scrupulous about following all campaign finance regulations, which serve an important role in protecting the public's interest. It is noteworthy that the criminal arraignment in this case was made on January 21 - the fourth anniversary of the Supreme Court's controversial Citizens United ruling. Some of the most outrageous examples of money in our politics, including SuperPACs and anonymous donations, are currently permitted by law. These recent events serve to underscore the need for further reforms to restore the public's trust in our process."

CBS News 8 spoke to the San Diego County Republican Party chair and says the party did not receive money from the accused during the implicated races.

Records show Cortes is being held in federal custody and Singh was arrested on Jan. 17 and on Jan. 21 posted a $250,000 bond. Encinas, the Foreign National and the Straw Donor have not been arrested.

Records show Cortes was fined $200 in 2008 for failing to register as a lobbyist. He has since registered.

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